New sanctions against Iran could be unveiled as early as Monday, US national security adviser John Bolton said in Jerusalem, as he warned the Islamic republic not to confuse American “prudence for weakness”.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr Bolton repeated US president Donald Trump’s warnings that Washington would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
The meeting comes amid escalating tensions between Tehran and Washington and the possibility of a military confrontation between the two countries. Mr Trump said he called off a military strike late on Thursday in respond to the downing of an American surveillance drone by an Iranian missile over the Straits of Hormuz.
“Neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should mistake US prudence and discretion for weakness,” Mr Bolton told reporters. “No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East.”
Mr Netanyahu said: “When sanctions against Iran were removed a few years ago as part of the nuclear deal and tens of billions of dollars began to pour into Iran’s coffers, Iran’s aggression increased dramatically Those who argue that Iran’s aggression began after the recent actions are not living on the same planet.”
Mr Bolton has long advocated harsh measures against Iran, while Mr Netanyahu is another strong supporter of severe sanctions against Tehran.
Yet the Israeli prime minister has been relatively muted as military tensions between Iran and the US have increased, repeating previous vows to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon.
The late reversal on military strikes underlines how the US president is grappling with the conflicting desire to be tough on adversaries and meet his campaign pledge of avoiding military interventions.
In an interview with NBC News, Mr Trump said he did not want to go to war with Iran, but warned Tehran that war would be “obliteration like you’ve never seen before”.
US media reported that the US also launched a cyber attack on Iran on Thursday aimed at disabling its computer systems controlling rocket and missile launchers.
The UN Security Council will convene on Monday to discuss Iran following a US request, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Mr Trump withdrew from the 2015 international nuclear deal designed to curb Tehran’s atomic ambitions and reimposed economic sanctions that were waived during the Obama administration, seeking to apply “maximum pressure” on Iran. But Tehran is showing no signs of submitting to US demands.
Mr Trump also said on Saturday that new sanctions were being prepared on Iran, although he did not give further details.
A commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard warned on Sunday that heightening tensions risked sparked a wider Middle East conflict.
“The fate of the nations are tied together in the region,” Major General Gholam Ali Rashid said. “Either [nations] move towards stability or the region becomes involved in instability and war,” he said, hitting out at the “US-Zionist-Saudi alliance”.
“The US government must refrain from bad behaviour in the region to protect the lives of American forces and not put their lives in danger,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the Iranian parliament, first deputy parliamentary speaker Masoud Pezeshkian said Iran would not “simply surrender to the US threats”, as lawmakers shouted: “Down with the USA”.
Iran has become more defiant against US threats, Iranian experts say, with the country also on track to breach a key uranium enrichment level that would put it in breach of the nuclear deal.
Kamal Kharrazi, president of Strategic Council on Foreign Relations of Iran, said after a meeting with a visiting UK Foreign Office minister that Europe needed to do more to save the nuclear accord.
“Three European signatories and the UK have not made any serious action” to save the deal,” Mr Kharrazi said after meeting Andrew Murrison. “Let’s see whether Europe will just promise or take practical steps within the remained two weeks,” he said.