Trump tells Iran 'never, ever threaten' US after Rouhani's war talk
US President Donald Trump engaged in a war of words with Iran early Monday, firing off a 42-word, all-caps tweet warning Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not to threaten the United States or face the consequences.
Trump was tweeting hours after Rouhani made a speech saying that hostile US policies towards Iran could lead to the “mother of all wars”.
"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!" Trump wrote, an a tweet sent late Sunday night US time.
Iran is a favourite target of Trump’s ire, especially since relations between Washington and North Korea began to thaw in recent weeks.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javid Zarif responded to Trump's tweet by telling the US president to "be cautious" in all-caps.
Mimicking Trump's bellicose Twitter threat directed at Iran's leaders the previous day, Zarif wrote: "UNIMPRESSED ... We've been around for millennia & seen fall of empires, incl our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. BE CAUTIOUS!"
One of the Trump administration’s key policies since taking office has been the decision to pull his country out of a key 2015 deal with Tehran that saw the lifting of sanctions on Iran in return for a curbing of its nuclear programme.
With Tehran scrabbling to salvage the deal with the other participants in the pact, the US has taken an increasingly hard line, prompting companies such as the energy giant Total and shipper Maersk to end operations in the country.
In Washington, US officials told the Reuters news agency that the Trump administration has 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 armed groups.
Addressing a gathering of Iranian diplomats on Sunday, Rouhani said: "Mr Trump, don't play with the lion's tail, this would only lead to regret," state news 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.
'America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars'
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
"You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iran's security and interests," he added, in an apparent reference to those reported efforts by the US to destabilise the Iranian government.
On Saturday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tehran may be moved to block all oil exports from the Gulf in the face of renewed and fierce US sanctions.
The threat to block the passage of oil through the Straights of Hormuz, through which much of the West’s supply runs, is one commonly made by Iranian leaders when tensions are high.
The head of Iran's Basij militia on Monday dismissed Trump's threats as "psychological warfare", local media reported.
"Trump's statements against Iran are psychological warfare. He is not in a position to act against Iran," said General Gholam Hossein Gheypour, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
The latest flare-up between American and Iran’s presidents follows a speech by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday calling Iranian leaders a “mafia”.
Pompeo, an arch-hawk and Iran critic, also promised US support to any anti-government Iranian groups.
In an address to the Iranian diaspora in California, Pompeo said Iran “is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government,” citing what he described as vast wealth and corruption among the country’s leaders.
"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," he said.
Pompeo insisted the US would have no qualms in targeting Iran’s top leadership with sanctions, and said the Trump administration was launching a 24/7 Farsi-language channel on TV, radio, digital and social media formats to reach Iranians in Iran and around the globe.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long pushed for a tougher stance against Iran by international powers, praised Trump on Monday.
"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.
Israel has vigorously lobbied against the Iranian nuclear programme, and sees Iran as one of its main political adversaries.