Iranians yesterday shrugged off the possibility that a bellicose exchange of words between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart could escalate into military conflict, but expressed growing concern America's stepped-up sanctions could damage their fragile economy.
In his latest salvo, Trump tweeted late on Sunday that hostile threats from Iran could bring dire consequences. This was after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani remarked earlier in the day that "America must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars."
Brandishing the CAPS lock key, Trump tweeted: "NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE." Within hours, Iran's state-owned news agency IRNA dismissed the tweet, describing it as a "passive reaction" to Rouhani's remarks.
The White House said yesterday Trump's tweet shows he is not going to tolerate critical rhetoric from Iran and insisted the U.S. leader isn't escalating tensions between the two countries.
"If anybody's inciting anything, look no further than to Iran," press secretary Sarah Sanders said and added that Trump has been "very clear about what he's not going to allow to take place."
Trump earlier this year pulled the U.S. out of the international deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and ordered increased American sanctions, as well as threatening penalties for companies from other countries that continue to do business with Iran. With the economic pressure, Trump said earlier this month that "at a certain point they're going to call me and say ‘let's make a deal,' and we'll make a deal."
Iran has rejected talks with the U.S., and Rouhani has accused the U.S. of stoking an "economic war." Rouhani also suggested Iran could immediately ramp up its production of uranium in response to U.S. pressure. Potentially that would escalate the very situation the nuclear deal sought to avoid — an Iran with a stockpile of enriched uranium that could lead to making atomic bombs. The Trump administration has vowed to confront Iran much more aggressively in the region where it shares the Saudi view that Tehran is fomenting instability via a number of proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen among other countries. Tehran denies the allegations. Referring to Iran as "the number one terrorist state," Trump said the Middle Eastern country supplies money and weapons to terrorist groups. The Trump administration hit the ground running, re-imposing sanctions against Iran in its first weeks in office and also instating restrictions against those who are complicit with Tehran.