In 2011, Donald Trump took to Twitter to predict that President Barack Obama will start a war with Iran, "in order to get elected." On Sunday night President Donald Trump took to Twitter to issue an all-caps threat to the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.
Trump's tweet was provoked by a provocative speech against the United States by Rouhani. On Sunday, the Iranian leader warned the United States about adopting a hostile tone toward Iran in the aftermath of Trump's withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal.
In the address, Rouhani declared that America "should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars," according to Reuters. He also directly told President Trump to not "play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret."
Shortly after Trump returned to the White House following a weekend at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump responded to Rouhani.
"NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE," Trump tweeted, using nothing but capitalized letters to emphasize his point. "WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!"
The president's remarks were swiftly condemned as "psychological warfare" on Monday by Commander General Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar, a senior officer in Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
Rouhani also took jabs at specific American policies toward Iran. For instance, in response to reports that American policymakers were hoping to destabilize that nation's government, Rouhani said that "you are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran’s security and interests." Regarding Trump's threat to make it impossible for Iran to export oil, Rouhani pointed to Iran's geopolitical domination of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, which he claimed gave the country an inestimable advantage over the United States.
"Anyone who understands the rudiments of politics doesn’t say ‘we will stop Iran’s oil exports’...we have been the guarantor of the regional waterway’s security throughout history," Rouhani proclaimed in his speech.
It is likely that Rouhani's speech was also a response to the fact that sanctions against Iran are set to be reimposed on November 4, with more than 50 international firms making it clear that they will leave the Iranian market at that time, at least according to a statement made earlier this month by a State Department policy and planning director, Brian Hook.
Hours after Rouhani's speech, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered an address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California which took a number of shots at the Iranian government.
"To the regime, prosperity, security, and freedom for the Iranian people are acceptable casualties in the march to fulfill the Revolution," Pompeo told his audience, according to CNN. After describing how Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, had allegedly engaged in corruption along with other members of the nation's leadership in order to establish an allegedly $95 billion off-the-books hedge fund used to help fund the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Pompeo attempted to rhetorically separate Iran's government from those of other, more respectable countries.
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"The level of corruption and wealth among regime leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government. These hypocritical holy men have devised all kinds of crooked schemes to become some of the wealthiest men on Earth while their people suffer," Pompeo said.
At one point during the speech, Pompeo was interrupted by protesters whose chant "Think about the children!" seemed to reference the Trump administration's controversial family separation policy. In response, Pompeo contrasted American political freedom with the absence of such freedom in Iran, arguing that "if there was only so much freedom of speech in Iran."
Although Trump's speech can be contextualized as part of the ongoing policy difficulties the administration has faced since pulling America out of President Barack Obama's Iranian nuclear deal, it could also be perceived as a way to change the narrative from the president's controversial behavior toward Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki Summit. Indeed, tweets posted by the president on Monday morning strongly suggest that a desire to spin away that bad publicity — namely, by cooking up more conspiracy theories about Democrats and special counsel Robert Mueller being the bad guys there instead of Trump himself — is still very much on the president's mind.
"So we now find out that it was indeed the unverified and Fake Dirty Dossier, that was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC, that was knowingly & falsely submitted to FISA and which was responsible for starting the totally conflicted and discredited Mueller Witch Hunt!" Trump tweeted. He then proceeded to quote Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch.
There could be serious consequences to Trump's desire to deflect attention away from the Helsinki Summit. As CNN military analyst Rick Francona told the network, "We've seen a lot of very bellicose words from Mr. Trump in the past, but this tweet ... I think it takes it to a new level. This seems to be a little out of character and really a little alarming for many people."
He added, "This is really dangerous."