(Bloomberg) -- U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton warned Iran’s proxies not to attack U.S. interests, saying any assault on their patron’s behalf would “risk a very strong response.”
Bolton, in a briefing with reporters in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, said the U.S. is “very concerned” that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps would use allied Shiite militia groups in Iraq to attack U.S. targets such as the American Embassy in Baghdad. Iran also has surrogates in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and the Gaza Strip.
“The point is to make it very clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kind of actions risk a very strong response from the United States,” he said.
Bolton’s warnings built on the threats of military action against Iran that have emerged from the Trump administration as strains between the sides escalated dramatically in recent weeks. Tensions mounted with the tightening of American sanctions on the Islamic Republic in April and a show of U.S. military force in the Gulf in response to unspecified Iranian threats.
The U.S. is alone among major world players in confronting Iran, beginning with its May 2018 unilateral withdrawal from the multipower nuclear deal that the Islamic Republic had honored. While the Trump administration’s campaign enjoys the support of Middle East allies concerned by Iran’s growing influence in the region, it’s drawn opposition from Europe, Russia and China, the other signatories to the accord.
The U.S., without providing proof, has also blamed Iran for the attack on ships near the Persian Gulf that took place shortly after the frictions flared. But Bolton said the Trump administration was trying to be “prudent and responsible” by gathering evidence and bolstering forces.
President Donald Trump ordered the deployment of about 1,500 additional U.S. troops to the Middle East after the United Arab Emirates said several ships were sabotaged this month and Saudi Arabia accused Iran of ordering an attack on oil facilities in the kingdom.
The attackers used naval mines almost certainly from Iran, Bolton said. “Who else you think is doing this?” he asked. “Somebody from Nepal?”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi called Bolton’s allegations “laughable” and part of a “destructive” plan by Iran’s opponents, state-run Mehr news agency reported.
(Updates with Iran dismissing allegation it sabotaged ships in last paragraph.)
--With assistance from Ladane Nasseri.
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