President Trump dramatically escalated his rhetoric toward Iran late Sunday night, sending an ominous, all-caps tweet that appeared to threaten a major attack on the country.
Trump was seemingly reacting to a speech given by Hassan Rouhani, the country’s president, who warned in a speech on Sunday that provoking Iran could result in the “mother of all wars.”
Rouhani is seen as a moderate, but he has stepped up his verbal attacks on the United States since Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by President Obama, even though inspectors had found that Iran had never violated its part of the agreement. After pulling out, the Trump administration imposed harsh sanctions on the country that had been removed as part of the negotiations two years earlier. Though Iranian and European signatories to the deal remain committed to preserving it, the Trump administration is intentionally making it difficult for them to carry on without the U.S. Rouhani’s Sunday speech came in reaction to American attempts to block countries around the world from purchasing Iranian oil; Rouhani has threatened to block regional oil exports traveling through the Strait of Hormuz if the U.S. follows through.
The Trump administration is stocked with anti-Iran hard-liners like National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who have accused the country of sowing chaos in the Middle East by supporting Hezbollah and pro–Bashar al-Assad forces in Syria, among other things.
In a speech on Sunday, Pompeo accused Iran’s leaders of raiding the country’s coffers to destabilize the region, and expressed solidarity with the people of Iran.
In a statement Monday morning, Bolton said that his boss’s aggression wasn’t limited to just a tweet.
Iran’s economy was already in dire straits before the reintroduction of sanctions, leading to widespread protests in recent months and a sense that the deal with the United States had not delivered its promised rewards — a message pushed by the country’s hard-liners, including its supreme leader, who have remained staunchly anti-American.
Trump’s tweet was reminiscent of those he sent about North Korea last year, in which he threatened the country with nuclear destruction if it did not stop threatening the U.S. That frightening episode ended (temporarily, at least) with a friendly summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore, where the president looks to have been hoodwinked by his counterpart, as most experts predicted he would be.
Perhaps Trump can contrive a 2019 meeting at a neutral site with Iran’s leaders, where he can negotiate a watered-down version of the nuclear deal he just squashed — which was far more thorough than anything he got out of North Korea — and call it a win, sparing the rest of us the prospect of a catastrophic war.