The White House on Monday continued an escalation of threatening rhetoric toward Iran that started with President Donald Trump warning Tehran about “consequences” that no other country has ever experienced.
National Security Adviser John Bolton said he spoke to Trump “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.”
That came about 12 hours after the president fired off a tweet responding to a speech by Iran’s president in all capital letters just before midnight that echoed the kind of fire-and-brimstone language he once reserved for North Korea.
Trump addressed the tweet directly to Hassan Rouhani, warning him to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
The commander in chief appeared to take a shot at his predecessor, Barack Obama, telling Rouhani the United States is “NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH,” advising the Iranian leader to “BE CAUTIOUS!”
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
Tim Kaine, D-Va., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, said in a statement that the “belligerent tweet is another alarming warning sign that he’s blundering toward war with Iran.” He called for the president to continue pressing Rouhani with sanctions and to “not get pulled into another preventable war in the Middle East.”
Rouhani on Sunday warned Trump that any confrontation with Iran would bring about the “mother of all wars.”
“Do not play with the lion's tail or else you will regret it,” Rouhani said. “Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars.”
Trump increased the possibility for some kind of conflict when he pulled the United States out of the accord Tehran struck with the Obama administration and other world powers. He has been open to a broader deal that he says would include Russia and some regional powers, which several key European leaders have publicly floated.
Republican lawmakers also have expressed hawkish views of how to handle Iran and its nuclear program, but some have warned Trump to proceed cautiously.
The president has indicated he discussed Iran’s actions in Syria and throughout the Middle East with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their summit last Monday in Finland. The Rouhani speech brought a change in message on Iran from Trump, who recently said Tehran had altered its behavior due to his pressure.