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National Security adviser John Bolton threatens ‘possible’ US sanctions on European firms over Iran

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 May, 2018, 1:41am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 May, 2018, 11:11pm

White House National Security adviser John Bolton on Sunday said US sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran were “possible”, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he remained hopeful Washington and its allies could strike a new nuclear deal with Tehran.

Bolton struck a more hawkish tone with his comments in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” than Pompeo did when he was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday.”

Bolton, asked whether the United States might impose sanctions on European companies that continue to do business with Iran, told CNN: “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.”

US President Donald Trump on May 8 announced that the United States was withdrawing from a 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

US says Iran nuclear inspections must continue despite quitting deal

So far, China, France, Russia, the UK, EU and Iran remain in the accord, which places controls on Iran’s nuclear programme and led to a relaxation of American economic sanctions against Iran and companies doing business there.

Pompeo said he was “hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behaviour, not just their nuclear programme, but their missiles and their malign behaviour as well.”

Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran deal has upset European allies, cast uncertainty over global oil supplies and raised the risk of conflict in the Middle East.

Why China is scrambling to contain fallout of Iran nuclear deal 

Germany’s minister for economic affairs, Peter Altmaier, said on Sunday that Berlin will try to “persuade the US government to change its behaviour.”

In an interview with ZDF public television, Altmaier noted that the United States has set a 90-day deadline for foreign firms to comply with the return of sanctions and that this period can be used to convince Washington to change course.

The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons
National Security adviser. John Bolton

This week, Israel and Iran engaged in an extensive military exchange on the heels of Trump’s decision to leave the deal.

On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump in a telephone call that he was worried about stability in the Middle East, according to Macron’s office.

As a private citizen, Bolton in the past has suggested that the United States push for a change in government in Iran. But in an interview aired on the ABC programme “This Week,” Bolton said, “That’s not the policy of the administration. The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons.”

Iran’s top diplomat hopeful of forging ‘clear future’ for nuclear deal

In the CNN interview, Bolton did not respond directly when asked whether Trump might seek “regime change” in Iran, or whether the US military would be ordered to make a pre-emptive strike against any Iranian nuclear facility.

“I’m not the national security decision maker,” Bolton said, adding that Trump “makes the decision and the advice that I give him is between us.”

When pressed by CNN on whether the administration would sanction European firms that continue to do business with Iran, Bolton said, “I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with us.”

Bolton said Europe was still digesting the May 8 move by Trump.

“I think at the moment there’s some feeling in Europe – they’re really surprised we got out of it, really surprised at the re-imposition of strict sanctions. I think that will sink in; we’ll see what happens then,” Bolton said.