Former National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks to reporters after speaking in a panel hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran – U.S. Representative Office (NCRI-US) at the Willard InterContinental Hotel on August 17, 2022 in Washington, DC.

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Former U.S. national security advisor John Bolton believes Israel’s war in Gaza is “still in the very early stages” and says it has been complicated by Iran’s involvement.

Framing the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas as “an Iranian war against Israel,” Bolton told CNBC’s Dan Murphy: “The fact that Iran has not yet been held to account for any of it, suggests that we’re still in the very early stages of the war.”

Israel declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian Islamist group launched a surprise terror attack on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people including women and children, and kidnapping more than 200 others. Some 130 are presumed to be still in captivity in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

“This is not a Gaza versus Israel war, or a Palestinian versus Israel war, or an Arab versus Israel war. This is an Iranian war against Israel, fought through terrorist proxies,” he told CNBC on Wednesday. Bolton is a noted foreign policy hawk and has previously advocated for regime change by the U.S. in Iran.

On Monday, Iran accused Israel of bombing part of its embassy compound in the Syrian capital of Damascus, killing seven Iranian military personnel, including three senior commanders. Tehran has vowed retaliation, while Israel has not publicly acknowledged the strike.

A dominant force in Middle East politics, Iran funds and supports groups opposing Israel, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and the Houthis in Yemen. The ongoing conflict in Gaza has often been referred to as a proxy war between Israel and Iran. Iran has repeatedly rejected allegations that it was behind the Oct. 7 terror attack, and U.S. intelligence has indicated that Iranian leaders were surprised by the attack.

In January, Iran struck several targets in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan, further escalating already high tensions in the Middle East and fueling concerns of a wider war. Tehran said that the attacks on Syria and Pakistan were not directly related to Israel’s war in Gaza, but rather a bid to target anti-Iran terror groups. 

As long as the current Iranian government is in power, it will continue to be a source of a threat to international peace and security, Bolton told CNBC.

Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment. 

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More than 32,900 people in Gaza have been killed since Israel launched its land, sea and air attack on the tiny Palestinian enclave, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there.

Israel has more recently been accused of deliberately targeting international aid workers from World Central Kitchen who were killed while delivering food into Gaza, where more than 80% of the people there are reportedly at a high risk of death and starvation.

Seven aid workers were killed, sparking an international outcry and prompting humanitarian groups to immediately suspend their operations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said their deaths were a “tragic case of our forces unintentionally hitting innocent people in the Gaza Strip.” “This happens in war, and we will investigate it to the end,” the Israeli prime minister said.

Bolton told CNBC there is “no indication” that Israel deliberately targeted them, and that it would be a “foolish thing to do” if they did. “The way to end the suffering in Gaza is to eliminate Hamas, which is the cause of the suffering,” Bolton said. 


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