WASHINGTON/ TEHRAN/ JERUSALEM - President Donald Trump on Sunday hit back at bellicose comments by Iran’s president, warning him of dire consequences as the US intensifies its campaign against the Islamic republic.
“NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump said on Twitter in a direct message to President Hassan Rouhani.
Earlier Sunday the Iranian leader had warned Trump not to “play with the lion’s tail,” saying that conflict with Iran would be the “mother of all wars”.
The US president, writing his entire message in capital letters, continued his riposte:
“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT
WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS
OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
His comments Sunday night came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a major address to the Iranian diaspora in California, said Washington is not afraid to sanction top-ranking leaders of the “nightmare” Iranian regime.
Following Washington’s pullout Pompeo unveiled Washington’s tougher line under which, he said, the US would lift the new sanctions if Iran ended its ballistic missile program and interventions in regional conflicts from Yemen to Syria. Rouhani immediately dismissed those US threats and on Sunday said: “You cannot provoke the Iranian people against their own security and interests.”
Pompeo called on “all governments to end their flirtations” with Iran’s regime, and said “there’s more to come” in terms of sanctions.
“Regime leaders - especially those at the top of the IRGC and the Quds Force like Qasem Soleimani - must be made to feel painful consequences of their bad decision making,” said Pompeo, a longtime Iran hawk. He was referring to Iran’s special forces and Revolutionary Guards. Roundly applauded by his audience, Pompeo affirmed support by Washington for protesters who have taken to the streets of Iran as economic woes mount after the US withdrawal from the nuclear accord.
“The regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people,” he said. “The United States hears you. The United States supports you. The United States is with you.”
To reinforce that message, Washington’s top diplomat announced an intensified American propaganda campaign, through the launch of a multimedia channel with 24-hour coverage on television, radio, and social media. Pompeo refused to distinguish between moderates and radicals at the heart of the Islamic republic.
The Trump administration is regularly suspected of favoring regime change in Iran, and Pompeo said “our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside Iran and globally.”
Meanwhile, Tehranis said Monday they were deeply sceptical at Washington’s claims that it stood with them against their government, as tensions rose again following the latest threats from US President Donald Trump. “It’s true that at the moment our society is in a crisis and under pressure that is creating discontent,” said Haleh, a child psychologist in the north Tehran suburb of Jordan. “But we don’t want the West to impose a revolution that can lead to disorder,” she added.
Many Iranians - even those opposed to the current system - fear what they see as a push for regime change, especially after the US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and announced it was reimposing crippling financial sanctions. “People want change, but not necessarily a change of regime,” said office worker Firouzeh.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday praised President Donald Trump’s “tough stand” against Iran after the US leader issued a stark warning to the Islamic republic. “I would like to praise the tough stand expressed yesterday by President Trump and Secretary of State (Mike) Pompeo against the aggression of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.
“Over the years, this regime has been spoiled by the major powers and it is good to see that the US is changing this unacceptable equation.”