"He Wants To Change The Subject": Trump Advisor On Twitter War With Iran

Tension between the United States and Iran escalated Monday after President Donald Trump appeared to threaten military action in a bellicose tweet and Iranian officials vowed to resist any attempt to destabilize their country.

The president issued his warning in an all-caps, late-night tweet to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday, renewing speculation about a direct confrontation between the Trump administration and its chief adversary in the Middle East.

"NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE," Trump told the Iranian leader. ". . . BE CAUTIOUS!"

The president's threat came after Rouhani said earlier Sunday that war with Iran would be "the mother of all wars" and suggested that Tehran might flex its military might in Middle Eastern waterways that are crucial to global commerce.

6luvpeekThe most recent war of words comes several weeks after Trump set aside the concerns of America's closest allies and pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran on May 8, deeming the pact "an embarrassment" (Reuters)

Trump's message exposed the disjointed nature of his administration's strategy on Iran, as officials across the government continue to put economic and political pressure on Tehran despite the president's sudden hint at a military strike.

Despite putting Iran "on notice" in the earliest days of Trump's presidency, U.S. officials have shunned military moves that might bring an unwanted escalation and instead have opposed the international Iran nuclear deal and embraced a growing web of sanctions.

That indirect approach has so far failed to halt Iran's ballistic missile program or check its support for proxy groups across the Middle East.

"There's a huge gap between the objectives that have been laid out and the means the administration has so far been willing to employ," said former envoy Dennis Ross, who has advised Republican and Democratic presidents on the Middle East. "At some point, either you revise the objectives or you embrace new means."

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Trump on Monday afternoon, tweeting that Iran was "UNIMPRESSED" by the president's threat.

"The world heard even harsher bluster a few months ago. And Iranians have heard them -albeit more civilized ones-for 40 yrs. We've been around for millennia," he said.

White House officials said Trump's message to Iranian leaders was in keeping with his tough stance.

"The president's been, I think, pretty strong since Day One in his language towards Iran," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Monday. "He's going to continue to focus on the safety and security of [the] American people."

National security adviser John Bolton suggested in a statement issued Monday that Trump's tweet might have been planned or at least contemplated for a while.

dq1r962gThe president's threat came after Rouhani said earlier Sunday that war with Iran would be "the mother of all wars" and suggested that Tehran might flex its military might in Middle Eastern waterways that are crucial to global commerce

"I spoke to the president over the last several days, and President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before," said Bolton, who has advocated regime change in Iran in the past.

Trump's tweet followed a familiar pattern: When mired in an especially negative situation, change the subject.

So a week after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was heavily criticized by Democratic and Republican leaders, and after waffling over his faith in U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump took to Twitter to issue an all-caps bulletin to Iran.

"There's nothing going on here except he wants to change the subject," said one Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment.

The adviser noted that Iran's leaders have uttered similar "mother of all wars" taunts over the years and that little has substantively changed in recent days to indicate a real escalation of tensions.

Asked Monday if he had any concerns about stoking tensions with Iran, Trump told reporters, "None at all."

The most recent war of words comes several weeks after Trump set aside the concerns of America's closest allies and pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran on May 8, deeming the pact "an embarrassment."

donald trump kim jong un reutersDonald Trump's tough language and threats appear to mirror his approach to North Korea and the leader he ridiculed last year as "Little Rocket Man." After a string of menacing statements, Trump and leader Kim Jong Un sat down for a high-profile summit in June (File Photo)

Since then, teams of U.S. officials have fanned out across Europe and Asia, warning companies to stop importing Iranian oil and to sever other types of business ties with Iran.

The Trump administration is also seeking to exact new financial costs on Iran, imposing sanctions on top officials and individuals associated with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

A fresh round of sanctions targeting the Iranian automotive industry and key metals will go into effect Aug. 4, the State Department has said. Sanctions targeting Iran's energy and banking sectors are due to be instated Nov. 4.

f8hriqo4Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Trump on Monday afternoon, tweeting that Iran was "UNIMPRESSED" by the president's threat (AFP)

The United States is also intensifying efforts to reach Iranians directly. Speaking to Iranian Americans in California on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. government would expand broadcasts in Farsi and take steps to bypass Internet censorship in Iran.

Mark Dubowitz, who heads the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the administration's harsh rhetoric together with economic measures had yielded some results, including reductions in Iran's ballistic missile tests and harassment of foreign ships.

"What the president is trying to do with this tweet is what he's succeeded in doing in the last year and a half, signaling to the Iranians: 'Don't test me; don't close the Strait of Hormuz; don't interfere with international shipping,' " Dubowitz said. " 'I will order Secretary Mattis to sink your ships.' "

But in the absence of a direct challenge from Tehran, few administration officials have supported pushing back militarily against Iran, even in places where groups trained and armed by Iran have directly challenged U.S. objectives, such as Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

While the United States has acted several times to halt direct threats against its forces in Syria, Pentagon leaders, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have consistently opposed risking another costly Middle Eastern conflict as they seek to reorient the military toward threats from Russia and China.

penbji3cSpeaking to Iranian Americans in California on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US government would expand broadcasts in Farsi and take steps to bypass Internet censorship in Iran

Instead, they have advocated an indirect approach to countering Iran's destabilizing activities, building up partner forces in Syria and Iraq and seeking to interdict weapons smuggled to Shiite rebels in Yemen.

Trump's tough language and threats appear to mirror his approach to North Korea and the leader he ridiculed last year as "Little Rocket Man." After a string of menacing statements, Trump and leader Kim Jong Un sat down for a high-profile summit in June.

But Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, warned that those tactics may not succeed with Iran.

"Iranian officials tend to be more prideful. Unless [supreme leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei is facing significant economic distress and existential angst, I suspect he will avoid negotiations with the United States during the Trump era," he said. "The depth of mutual mistrust and contempt is too great."

Jarrett Blanc, who worked on Iran issues at the State Department during the Obama administration, said Trump's threats did not appear to be connected to a larger plan building a case for war, similar to what occurred with Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003.

"I don't think Donald Trump has decided, in the way George W. Bush and Cheney decided with Iraq, that 'I'm going to go to war, and I'm going to build up this narrative and escalatory spiral to get me there,' " he said.

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Rohani to US: Choose Mother of All Peace or Mother of All Wars

Sunday was an agitated day for international relations, the Iranian Government and Washington have exchanged threats. 

Sunday was an agitated day for international relations, with the Iranian Government and the Washington exchanging threats. Iran's President Hassan Rohani warned U.S. President Donald Trump not to "play with fire, or you will regret."

RELATED: Pompeo: 'US Will Crush Iran With Strongest Sanctions in History'

"We are noble people and we have guaranteed in the history security of the Strait in the region," President Rohani said in the meeting with Iranian representatives in foreign countries. The remark references the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Government on Iran after the Trump Administration exited the deal, in May, which restricted Iran's nuclear activities.

The United States sanctioned Iran in a unilateral way and against the disapproval of the other countries that signed the agreement in 2015. France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia and China were parties to the agreement.

"Whenever the EU countries were on the verge of reaching an agreement with Iran, the White House would block the deal," President Rohani said, adding that "the Americans should come to realize that establishing peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and waging war with the country is mother of all wars," news agency IRNA reported.

These declarations were met by threatening responses from Washington.

President Trump wrote, in a tweet, to President Rohani "Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before."

The U.S. leader added that they are a country that will not tolerate "words of violence and death."

RELATED: Iran, EU Decry Trump's Withdrawal from Nuclear Deal

While attending an event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs in California, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Iranian Government "resembles the mafia more than a government."

The U.S. Government's strategy to pressure Iran is based on a diplomatic campaign to impose financial sanctions mainly on its oil and energy sector.

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US will end like Saddam Hussein did if it attacks Iran – Revolutionary Guards

If the US tries to invade Iran, it will face the same fate that the government of Saddam Hussein did when it launched a war against the Islamic Republic, Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said in a statement.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRSG) said it “will make sure the American regime will end up being destroyed just like Saddam’s regime,” if Washington chooses to go to war.

 
The threat comes after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran and declared a 12-point ultimatum to Tehran, which includes stopping all uranium enrichment, withdrawing militia troops from Iraq and Syria, and otherwise submitting to US foreign policy goals.

Iran rejected the demands and is working with other parties to the deal, including China, Russia, Britain, France, and the EU, which criticized Washington’s decision to pull out of the deal and escalate tensions with Iran.

In the 1980s, Iran and Iraq engaged in a bloody eight-year war which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein received support from Western nations, including the US, despite committing well-documented atrocities like using chemical weapons against Iran.

More than two decades after the inconclusive end to the conflict, the Iraqi leader himself was targeted by the US and its allies, which ousted him during the 2003 invasion. He was later executed by the new Iraqi government.

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Pullout from JCPOA, embassy move US historic mistakes

TEHRAN, May 15 (MNA) – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said that the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and relocation of its embassy to al-Quds were two historic mistakes made by the US administration.

"History will judge that these two decisions have been very incorrect and imprecise towards Iran and the peoples of the region," Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday while meeting with the new ambassador of New Zealand to Tehran.

Referring to the objections of the global community towards these two decisions, Rouhani said "the first outcome of the incorrect decisions is Washington's isolation in the public opinion of the world."

With regard to the bilateral relations between Iran and New Zealand, President Rouhani stressed that Tehran welcomes development of friendly relations with Wellington and referred to the ample potentials for deepening of these relations.

He added "there are good potentials for development of relations between Iran and New Zealand that must be taken advantage of and Tehran is ready to cement scientific, commercial and tourism ties with Wellington".

The Iranian president also appreciated the positive stances of New Zealand on the JCPOA and said "2015 was the year of success of politics and diplomacy over hostility and unfriendly relations among countries and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that constructive interaction with the countries of the world and adoption of a win-win approach will be beneficial for the entire world."

Iran has always been committed to its obligations in the international stage, he said, adding that in the case of the JCPOA, 11 reports by the IAEA verify this and the US' withdrawal from the deal is a political and moral defeat for the US administration.

New Ambassador of New Zealand to Tehran Hamish MacMaster presented his letter of credence to President Rouhani and stressed that Wellington was willing to deepen and cement relations with Tehran in all fields, especially economy.

He added "the two governments and nations of Iran and New Zealand have close, friendly relationship with each other and it is imperative that this relationship is further strengthened."

KI/PR

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Iran still complying with nuclear deal says UN atomic watchdog chief

The Iranian regime has complied with its nuclear commitments made under the deal signed in 2015, the IAEA director general said in a statement, just one day after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal.

“Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime under the JCPOA, which is a significant verification gain,” Yukiya Amano said Wednesday, using the full title of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “As of today, the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran.”

The original deal was signed by the Iranian government, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) and the European Union in Vienna on July 14, 2015.

Under the terms, negotiated over a period of 20 months, Iran agreed to eliminate entirely its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, cut its inventory of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent and dispose of approximately two-thirds of its gas centrifuges for a period of 13 years.

In addition, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment program to not exceed 3.67-percent enrichment, which could only take place in a single facility, using first-generation centrifuges for a period of 10 years. It also vowed not to construct any new heavy-water facilities for 15 years.   

@RT_com EU leaders decry Trump’s withdrawal from Iran deal, vow to work together to maintain it https://on.rt.com/94ur

Trump’s decision has been widely panned among the international community, with many of his European allies issuing statements saying they would not follow the US in dismantling or abandoning the deal but would, instead, work to strengthen it into a broader, more far-reaching agreement. So far, Trump has received support from the governments of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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Iran nuclear deal collapse could spell grave consequences for the Korean peninsula – Lavrov

The potential collapse of the nuclear deal with Iran could set a dangerous precedent and will have serious consequences for the tense standoff on the Korean peninsula, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned.

Tensions between North Korea and the international community have steadily been rising over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. An already volatile situation has been further inflamed by hostile rhetoric and military provocations from both North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.

The case with Iran, whose own nuclear program is likewise viewed with suspicion by the US, has been soothed, so far, by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – agreed to in 2015 by Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, the so-called P5+1.

 
Morteza Nikoubazl ©

"It is evident that the failure of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, especially through the fault of one of the participants in the P5+1 group, will become an alarming signal for the whole architecture of international security, including prospects for the settlement of the nuclear problem of the Korean peninsula," Lavrov said before a meeting of the UN Security Council. Russia's Foreign Minister underlined that scrapping JCPOA will undermine any deal made with Pyongyang.

Last week, Trump announced that he would waive the economic sanctions on Iran, lifted under the JCPOA agreement, which sees Tehran scale back its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions. He warned America’s European allies, however, that Washington could still pull out of the agreement if its terms were not met. Trump previously referred to JCPOA as the “worst deal ever.”

At the UN, Lavrov reiterated the importance of seeking a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis. He again put forward the “double-freeze” strategy proposed by Russia and China, in which the US and its allies cease major military exercises in the region in exchange for Pyongyang suspending its nuclear and ballistic missile program.
"We reaffirm the relevance of the road map proposed by Russia and China in the interests of an exclusively peaceful settlement of this problem," he said.

Washington has consistently rejected the plan. It did so again at a joint summit with Canada this week, proposing more sanctions on Pyongyang instead. In an interview with Reuters Wednesday, Trump said military action is still very much an option.

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