President Donald Trump launched a new verbal attack against Iran’s president Rouhani, vowing “consequences the likes of which few have ever suffered before” if Hassan Rouhani continues threatening America in a late-night Sunday all caps tweet.
In the tweet, addressed to Rouhani, Trump said, “To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
Trump’s threat was in response to the earlier warning by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who on Sunday warned the US not to provoke Iran or halt Iranian oil exports, saying that “Americans must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars” adding that “it would only lead to regret.”
The head of Iran’s paramilitary Basij forces dismissed Trump’s words as part of a psychological war saying the U.S. “wouldn’t dare make the mistake of taking action against Iran,” Gholamhossein Gheybparvar said according to the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency.
“The Iranian people and it’s armed forces will stand up to its enemies and will not yield. We believe that the way towards happiness and progress is resistance and defiance in the face of enemies and adversaries,” he added.
Trump’s threat, similar to ones Trump issued last year in warning North Korea about its nuclear weapons program, risks leading to a speedy escalation if neither side backs down, and traders quickly took notice as brent oil traded up 1% to $73.78 a barrel.
The already tense relations between Washington and Tehran have been strained further by the US State Department’s campaign to subvert the Iranian government through propaganda. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Sunday that the US will be lending its support to dissidents in Iran with a new 24/7 Farsi-language channel and backing what he described as “the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people.”
“For 40 years the Iranian people have heard from their leaders that America is the Great Satan,” Pompeo said. “We do not believe they are interested in hearing the fake news any longer.”
Pompeo also accused the country’s leaders of corruption and urged European allies to join the pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic. Pompeo said Iran’s leadership is made up of “hypocritical holy men” responsible for “crooked schemes” that have hurt the country’s economy and people, according to Bloomberg.
The US Secretary of State added that America stands in solidarity with Iranians and reiterated the November deadline for countries to get their imports of Iranian oil to “as close to zero as possible.” While the administration has said it doesn’t seek regime change, it has repeatedly said that Iran’s leaders don’t have their citizens’ interests at heart.
“While it is ultimately up to the Iranian people to determine the direction of their country, the United States, in the spirit of our own freedoms, will support the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people,” Pompeo said in the speech in Simi Valley, California. The audience included Iranian-Americans, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton — a leading Iran critic in Congress — and former California Governor Pete Wilson.
Citing his own travels to North Korea as an example, Pompeo said it’s still possible for the Trump administration to build a relationship with Tehran, but he didn’t seem optimistic that such an outcome was likely. He said Iran must make a series of changes to become a “normal” country. “That I don’t see happening today, but I live in hope,” he said.
As Bloomberg notes, Pompeo sought to portray his message Sunday in terms of good-versus-evil, as a major moment in history. He cited President Ronald Reagan’s 1982 Westminster Speech in which he challenged the Soviet Union and warned that its ideology would be left on the “ash heap of history.”
Tensions with Iran come as the U.S. moves closer to imposing sanctions on countries including key allies that don’t eliminate or significantly cut imports of Iranian oil by Nov. 4. Earlier this year, the Trump administration’s decision this year to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord, which eased economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic in return for restraints on its nuclear program.
The administration will have to decide how hard to enforce its sanctions. Previously both Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have told European leaders they won’t get waivers. But, as Bloomberg points out, other countries such as Iraq, are major importers of Iranian natural gas, and sanctions could strain alliances the U.S. seeks to maintain. As for China, which is a key Iran customer, it is unlikely that the US will have much sway if at all, and many have speculated that Beijing could purchase all of Iran’s excess output – at deeply discounted prices – if only to spite Trump.