23 July 2018   Leave a comment

At midnight last night, US President Trump tweeted:

“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!”
The tweet caught a number of people by surprise because of its aggressive tone and content, and I would think that the message is probably unique in the history of diplomatic exchanges.  The back story to the tweet, however, is interesting.  US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, gave at the Reagan Library in California yesterday.  It was also a very hostile speech, reflecting the Administration’s concern over Iranian power in the Middle East.  One part of the speech was revealing:

“Economically, we see how the regime’s decision to prioritize an ideological agenda over the welfare of the Iranian people has put Iran into a long-term economic tailspin. During the time of the nuclear deal, Iran’s increased oil revenues could have gone to improving the lives of the Iranian people. Instead they went to terrorists, dictators, and proxy militias. Today, thanks to regime subsidies, the average Hizballah combatant makes two to three times what an Iranian firefighter makes on the streets of Iran. Regime mismanagement has led to the rial plummeting in value.A third of Iranian youth are unemployed, and a third of Iranians now live below the poverty line.

“The bitter irony of the economic situation in Iran is that the regime uses this same time to line its own pockets while its people cry out for jobs and reform and for opportunity. The Iranian economy is going great – but only if you’re a politically-connected member of the elite. Two years ago, Iranians rightfully erupted in anger when leaked paystubs showed massive amounts of money inexplicably flowing into the bank accounts of senior government officials.”

There is great irony in Pompeo’s comments since many Americans felt the same way about their government in 2016 which led to the election of President Trump.  But Iranian President Rouhani had sharp words for President Trump.  Reuters describes the remarks by Rouhani:

“Addressing a gathering of Iranian diplomats, Rouhani said: ‘Mr Trump, don’t play with the lion’s tail, this would only lead to regret,’ the state new agency IRNA reported.

“’America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,’ Rouhani said, leaving open the possibility of peace between the two countries, at odds since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“’You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran’s security and interests,’ Rouhani said, in an apparent reference to reported efforts by Washington to destabilise Iran’s Islamic government.

“In Washington, U.S. officials familiar with the matter told Reuters that the Trump administration had launched an offensive of speeches and online communications meant to foment unrest and help pressure Iran to end its nuclear programme and its support of militant groups.”

The tension between Iran and its opponents in the Middle East–Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the US–has risen sharply in recent weeks as rumors have surfaced that President Trump and Russian President Putin agreed in their Helsinki summit that the Syrian government could take control of the southwest parts of Syria currently held by anti-Syrian rebels.  Israel fears Iranian troops in that area so close to the Golan Heights and it is fascinating that Israel now looks to Russia–not the US–as the guarantor of its safety in the region and will therefore likely support Russia’s continued presence in Syria.

But the leader of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, looks to both Iran and Russia for his continued rule and it is unlikely that he would support any move to restrict Iranian activity.  So the question is what kind of compromise will Assad, Putin, and Netanyahu accept that will also be acceptable to the Iranians.  The US has no voice in this compromise, an extraordinary result given how many billions of dollars the US has funneled into both Israel and Saudi Arabia.  Apparently, Netanyahu has decided that President Trump will accept any outcome that Israel supports.

 

Posted July 23, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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