The White House says President Donald Trump’s threatening tweet shows he’s not going to tolerate critical rhetoric from Iran, but claims the U.S. leader isn’t escalating tensions between the two countries. (July 23)
‘The truth is that Trump’s threat lacks credibility. A U.S. attack would provoke a wider regional war that would be an order of magnitude worse than what we saw in Iraq.’
President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani exchanged angry threats as Washington prepares to reimpose economic sanctions.
Trump’s incoherent approach to Iran
President Donald Trump is once again issuing bombastic threats of war, this time against Iran. This administration’s total lack of a coherent approach to Iran has created a strategic vacuum, wherein U.S. policy is reduced to the hackneyed regime change rhetoric of neoconservatives and the primal screams of an undisciplined, callow president.
On Sunday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, taking note of an increasingly antagonistic Trump administration, said America should know that “peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
In response, Trump tweeted: “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED.”
That seems a bit of an overreaction, but it is even stranger in the context of Trump’s tweets from 2013, in which he lambasted President Barack Obama for planning to go to war against Iran “to save face” and “to show how tough he is.”
And let’s not forget that as president elect, Trump promised in late 2016 to “stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about.”
Trump’s Twitter threat came just as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was giving a speech Sunday in California aimed at rallying the Iranian people and diaspora to undermine the regime in Tehran. Pompeo railed against the Iranian regime’s tyranny and rights abuses, offering sympathy and support for those who seek to overthrow it.
The notion that the Trump administration cares one whit about democracy and human rights in Iran is so transparently ludicrous as to hardly even require refutation. After all, the White House is enthusiastically supporting the authoritarian regime in Saudi Arabia, a tyranny much worse than the one in Iran and which is committing war crimes in Yemen with U.S. help.
Contrary to Pompeo’s feigned concern for the welfare of the citizens of Iran, the administration’s approach harms, rather than helps, the Iranian people.
The truth is that Trump’s threat lacks credibility. A U.S. attack would provoke a wider regional war that would be an order of magnitude worse than what we saw in Iraq.
The Trump administration’s hostility toward Iran is irrational. Backing out of the nuclear deal not only created a proliferation risk in Iran, it also locked the White House in a policy of confrontation. The result has been confusion, needless antagonism and a dangerous risk of stumbling into yet another costly war in the Middle East.
John Glaser is director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. Follow him on Twitter: @jwcglaser
Trump is playing the tough guy for his base
One has to wonder exactly what President Donald Trump’s motives are.
The United States should never allow threats from a foreign adversary. No one can argue the fact that in order for America to remain strong, we should defend our nation, not only physically but politically as well. Taking to Twitter to do so, however, is not the best way of handling a potentially devastating situation with a nation that has nuclear capabilities.
Trump is coming off of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in which much of the news media and opposition are accusing him of being “soft.” Some have gone as far as saying that he acted cowardly and even treasonous on the world stage in Helsinki.
Trump needs to prove otherwise, and while something seems to be deterring him from showing strength in the presence of Putin, he has always been quite willing to do so when it comes to Islamic nations. When the opportunity presented itself, to defend America against a verbal threat from Iran, Trump jumped at the opportunity, knowing very well that it would both please his base and show that he still has the guts to stand up to an adversary (as long as it’s not Russia).
As special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe digs its claws into Trump’s campaign officials — and appears to be working its way into his inner circle — it will not come as a surprise to me if he uses the prospects of war to try to distract America from what Mueller may end up finding. War has been a useful tool for previous presidents who have slipped in approval, as well as those who needed to distract the media from problems at home.
Keep an eye on what happens with Iran as Mueller’s investigation continues. Does Trump use war to rile up his base while also attempting to drown out news coverage of his possible Russian ties? Only time will tell.
What our readers are saying
President Donald Trump seems not to be able to track what he says. He threatened North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with “fire and fury” in the past, and that threat came to nothing but muddled denuclearization talks. Now, he is trading threats with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warning of consequences “the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered.” Is there any reason for Rouhani to take this threat any more seriously than the one made against North Korea? It appears Trump acts in the spur of the moment without screening his thoughts or controlling his anger. President Theodore Roosevelt said “speak softly and carry a big stick,” but Trump stomps around making big noises doing nothing. Americans should be grateful that he hasn’t gotten us into a war, yet. But it is becoming increasingly clear that he lacks any credibility with our allies or other foreign powers.
George Magakis; Norristown, Pa.
Comments are edited for clarity and grammar:
Finally, a president who has the guts to say enough is enough. He said what was needed by the strongest country on earth to one that has burned the American flag and where its people call us Satan. If they are looking for an enemy to fight with, do not look our way or beware.
— Jim Bradley
I truly believe that it behooves an American administration to take the high road and not allow itself to be caught in an exchange of words with tin-pot dictators. In the end, I’d prefer that decisions be made with cool logic, not overhyped egos.
— John R. Grace
It’s refreshing to have a president exhibit strength, unlike Barack Obama, who bent over backwards for other world leaders.
— Stephen Jobson
If Obama were still president, he would threaten Iran by dropping pallets of money on it. Or maybe giving its people U.S. citizenship. Or letting them invade another country, like Iraq or Syria.
— Robert Thompson
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