Iran Threatens Military Strikes Against U.S. and Israel After Trump Administration Unveils Plans for Pressure Campaign on Tehran

By the time Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton finished his three-day visit to Israel, leaders in Iran were threatening military strikes against U.S. and Israeli targets.

During the visit, Bolton said the U.S. government is not in favor of regime change in Iran, a significant departure from previous statements about his personal preferences for the country, but he noted that the U.S. wants to put maximum pressure on Tehran until it changes its behavior across the Middle East. The U.S. reimposed sanctions against Iran in early August after canceling a 2015 agreement with the country that lifted sanctions in exchange for limits on the country's nuclear development program. More sanctions against Iran's oil industry will go into effect in the autumn. Bolton said the toll these sanctions are taking could force Iran to alter its behavior, although he stressed that so far the country is still supporting militant groups across the Middle East.

He also spoke about plans to remove Iran-linked forces from neighboring Syria, and claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is on board with pushing Iran out. The statements, which directly contradicted previous statements made by Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding Iran's presence in Syria, caused a furor within Iran.

Senior Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami leads Friday prayer in Tehran, Iran, on January 5. This week he said Iran could hit U.S. and Israeli targets in the Middle East if the U.S. threatens his country. Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

On Wednesday, a senior Iranian cleric lashed out at Bolton and warned that the U.S. does not want to get embroiled in a conflict with Iran. Iran's Revolutionary Guard has also said it could use its allies in Lebanon, the political party and militant group Hezbollah, to hit Israel with strikes. The cleric Ahmad Khatami is linked to the highest levels of Iranian government.

Iran unveiled a new domestically made jet on Tuesday, a move many observers said was meant to be a show of force as the country enters a war of words with the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful leader in Iran, recently claimed that Iran would not go to war because no country would dare to confront Tehran militarily.

Meanwhile, Bolton has continued to stress that economics will be the weapon of choice.

"We're not just going to stop at where the sanctions were in 2015. Our goal, our objective really, is essentially we'd like to say no waivers to the sanctions," Bolton told reporters as his trip to Israel was winding down. Iran's economy is currently suffering as its currency depreciates and the country grapples with high levels of inflation.

Economists say Iran's economy will continue to slow down when sanctions are imposed on the country's oil industry.