But Bolton, speaking in Jerusalem before a three-way conference between the US, Russia and Israel on the future role of Iran in Syria, insisted the US had not lost its nerve.
He said no one had granted Iran “a hunting licence in the Middle East”. He echoed Trump’s warnings that the US military was “rebuilt, new and ready to go”, and said “biting” new sanctions would be imposed on Monday.
“Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons, its threats to exceed the limits set in the failed Iran nuclear deal in the coming days … are not signs of a nation seeking peace,” Bolton said.
However, back in Washington Trump issued one of his frequent reminders that Bolton does not have the final say in US national security matters, but is just one voice among several competing views.
“John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he’d take on the whole world at one time, OK? But that doesn’t matter because I want both sides,” Trump told NBC News’s Meet the Press on Sunday. He pointed to the disastrous US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a war Bolton aggressively advocated – as a reason for caution in the Middle East.