Bolton’s statement is the sort of tough warning that has two possible aims. One is to push an adversary into moderating its behavior. The other – more likely in this case, given Bolton’s long history of seeking regime change in Tehran – is to provoke Iran into a hot-headed response.
I see little reason why Tehran would choose the latter path. According to the U.S. intelligence community, Tehran is still adhering to the nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015 and is reeling from the new sanctions levied on its economy.
So what gives, Bolton?
It looks as though the administration’s national security chief is concerned that he’s losing the attention of his boss, who has the pesky habit of validating the sorts of authoritarian leaders Bolton has made a career of bashing.