Remarks by National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton to the Zionist Organization of America (Excerpts)

November 5, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

Thank you, Ingeborg, for your kind introduction. We are all deeply grateful to you and Ira for your devoted service to so many important causes.

I also want to thank Mort Klein for the invitation to speak at this year’s dinner. For twenty-five years now, Mort has served as national president of this outstanding organization, leading with extraordinary courage, vision, and pride. Thank you, Mort.

I am truly humbled to receive ZOA’s Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Award for Defense of Israel.

This organization has long served as a staunch advocate for the Jewish state, for the Jewish people, and for a strong U.S.-Israeli partnership. It is a true privilege to attend this dinner and to have the opportunity to address all of you.

In September, President Trump and I were here in New York City for his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. During his remarks, the President made clear that the United States has embarked on a new foreign policy course.

We are no longer apologizing for defending our national interests and our sovereignty.

We are calling out our enemies, and standing by our friends.


The United States continues to support a robust peace process and direct negotiations between all parties.

Of course, we know that the primary obstacle to enduring peace and stability in the Middle East is none other than the murderous Iranian dictatorship in Tehran.

The ayatollahs steal from their people to fund their worldwide campaign of chaos, destruction, and bloodshed.

The regime has long been the world’s central banker for terrorism, and it remains the leading state sponsor of terror to this day.

Over the decades, Iran has kidnapped, tortured, and murdered American and Israeli citizens. It has attacked our embassies, and targeted our service members.

The mullahs proudly chant “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” At least we are in good company.

This brutal dictatorship can never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon.

For this reason, earlier this year President Trump withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal.

This deal was by far the worst diplomatic fiasco in American history.

It was based on the tragic fallacy that a handshake, and a wink, between self-styled global elites is sufficient protection for millions of innocent lives around the world.

The State of Israel was founded in the wake of the worst atrocities known to man.

The lessons of appeasement are deeply engrained in all those who understand this important history and are determined to prevent the mistakes of the past.

Our solemn pledge, “Never Again,” will mean nothing if we allow a regime that calls for the total annihilation of Israel to possess the world’s deadliest weapons.

Not on our watch.

We remember the dangers of naïve hopes, and unenforceable promises. Unfortunately, the deal’s negotiators clearly did not.

The 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal failed to permanently block all paths to an Iranian nuclear bomb. Further, its negotiators failed to secure any restrictions on Iran’s other destabilizing activities, including the regime’s ballistic missile development and proliferation.

Earlier this year, we saw undeniable proof of what we had long known: the 2015 agreement was built on a flat lie, the absurd claim that the Iranian regime desired only a peaceful nuclear program.

In April, Israeli intelligence proved once and for all that Iran had long pursued nuclear weapons, and that it had lied about it repeatedly to the United States and the world.

Unsurprisingly, since this horrible deal was reached, the Iranian regime’s aggression has only increased.

Iran’s military budget has ballooned by nearly forty percent.

The regime is funneling billions of dollars into horrific violence in Gaza, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria.

The mullahs have also used their new funds from the deal to build and proliferate missiles throughout the region.

U.S. intelligence clearly shows that Iran is actively enhancing its missile systems and technologies. The regime has advanced its precision-strike capability, its anti-ship targeting abilities, and its potential missile target sets.

Iran obtains critical missile components and supplies through vast networks of agents and front companies all over the world.

In recent months, we know that the regime has been working with suppliers in Asia and Europe to acquire numerous electronic components, metals, and other materials, including sophisticated European and U.S. equipment.

Iran has spread these dangerous weapons across the Middle East and beyond, including into Syria, where they can be used to threaten Israel. Already this year, Iranian forces have used bases inside Syria to launch attacks against the Golan Heights and Israeli service members.

As the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran also remains the primary patron of numerous terrorist proxies and militias, including Hezbollah and Hamas.

Over the years, Tehran has financed and facilitated countless terrorist activities. Last month, Danish authorities arrested an Iranian agent for plotting an assassination on Danish soil. This past summer, several Iranian diplomats were arrested for masterminding a bomb plot in Paris. And in August, two Iranian agents, residents of the United States, were arrested by the FBI and charged with surveilling American citizens and Israeli and Jewish facilities in the United States, including a Jewish community center in Chicago.

Why would Iranian agents surveil a Jewish community center if not for malicious purposes?

Former U.S. officials should reflect deeply on this question before promoting their pet diplomatic projects with Iran on TV and radio networks across our country.

The tragic events in Pittsburgh last month remind us all of our shared responsibility to confront anti-Semitism and hatred, wherever and whenever it surfaces, including when it is propagated by state actors with nefarious intentions.

Under this administration, we will make certain Iran understands the consequences of targeting American and Israeli citizens.

As I said at the United Nations in September, if the Iranian regime continues to lie, cheat, and deceive; if it threatens the United States and our allies; if it harms our citizens, there will indeed be HELL to PAY.

In case there is any doubt, I meant what I said.

Just last month, the President decided to terminate the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran. The regime cannot practice animosity in its conduct and then ask for amity under international law.

Last month, we also withdrew from the Optional Protocol on Dispute Resolution to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which purported to permit the so-called State of Palestine’s lawsuit against the United States at the International Court of Justice.

We will not allow anyone to promote baseless, politicized claims against the United States and Israel.

In August, we also began reimposing hard-hitting nuclear sanctions that had been lifted under the Iran Nuclear Deal. All nuclear-related sanctions will be back in full force tomorrow, thus completing the termination of U.S. participation in the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Measures coming back into force tomorrow include powerful sanctions on Iran’s energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, and sanctions targeting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran and sanctioned Iranian banks. And we will not stop here—President Trump has called for maximum pressure on Iran, and his administration will deliver. I am confident.

Collectively, under this administration, we have levied the toughest-ever sanctions against Iran in history, and they are already having a devastating effect on the Iranian economy.

The Iranian rial has lost about seventy percent of its value; the Iranian inflation rate has nearly quadrupled since May, and Iran’s economy is sliding into recession.

More than 100 companies have decided to cease doing business with Iran, and that number is growing daily.

As a result of the administration’s tough stance on curtailing the regime’s oil exports, Iranian oil exports have also fallen dramatically. Since May, over 20 countries have reduced their imports of Iranian oil to zero and Iran’s oil exports have fallen by over a million barrels per day.

Moving forward, President Trump intends to pursue additional, tougher measures, to apply maximum pressure on the regime and force it to choose between changing its behavior and economic disaster.

We will also strictly enforce all previously existing sanctions—much tighter than under the Obama administration.

This is a maximum pressure campaign. We are targeting the regime’s funding, leadership, proxies, militias, and enablers. Any individual or entity that fails to comply with U.S. sanctions will risk severe consequences.

All nations and businesses should follow the lead of companies like Siemens, Maersk, Hyundai, Boeing, Total, Allianz, Daimler, Mazda, and Reliance Oil, among others, which have all decided to stop doing business with Iran.