JEDDAH: A top aide to the US president launched a withering attack on Iran on Wednesday, ramping up the diplomatic pressure already applied by Donald Trump.
Sanctions are devastating the economy, public opinion is turning against the regime and Iranian forces need to leave Syria, National Security Adviser John Bolton said. “Regime change in Iran is not American policy, but what we want is massive change in the regime’s behavior,” said Bolton, who before taking office advocated regime change in Iran.
Bolton said he believed Trump’s decision in May to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, followed by the reimposition of sanctions, was having a stronger effect than expected on pressuring Tehran.
The nuclear deal had allowed Tehran to finance militant activity in the region after the lifting of sanctions. The return of US sanctions was having a strong effect on Iran’s economy and popular opinion, Bolton said on a visit to Israel.
US sanctions reimposed this month targeted Iran’s car industry, trade in gold and other precious metals, and purchases of US dollars crucial to international financing and investment and trade relations. Farther-reaching sanctions are to follow in November on Iran’s banking sector and oil exports. “By bringing the hammer down again of reimposing American sanctions, we’ve seen a profound negative effect on Iran — I think actually more serious than we would have predicted,” Bolton said.
“I think the effects, the economic effects certainly, are even stronger than we anticipated.
“But Iranian activity in the region has continued to be belligerent — what they are doing in Iraq, what they are doing in Syria, what they are doing with Hezbollah in Lebanon, what they are doing in Yemen, what they have threatened to do in the Strait of Hormuz.
“There should not be any doubt that the United States wants this resolved peacefully, but we are fully prepared for any contingency that Iran creates.”
European powers have been scrambling to ensure Iran secures enough economic benefits to persuade it to stay in the deal. This has proven difficult, with many European firms keen to avoid financial penalties by the Trump administration.
“We expect that Europeans will see, as businesses all over Europe are seeing, that the choice between doing business with Iran or doing business with the United States is very clear to them,” Bolton said.
“So we will see what plays out in November. But the president has made it very clear — his words — he wants maximum pressure on Iran, maximum pressure, and that is what is going on.”