On Aug. 8, 2017, President Donald Trump indulged in unusually violent rhetoric about an undoubtedly serious situation — the development and testing of missiles by North Korea.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said, with his arms crossed in front of him. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening … and as I said they will be met with fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Dictator Kim Jong Un kept threatening that day, before the histrionics started to take a different turn and the two had a high-profile meeting. Despite all the new trappings of cordiality, the military status quo and official hostilities remained the same, but quieter.
This week, Trump returned to threatening Iran in a similar way.
"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Never threaten the United States again!”
Warning: Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
The challenges the two rogue regimes and their nukes pose against the United States differ by circumstance, history and region. The last president reached a nuclear pact with Tehran that Trump entered office determined to trash.
Iran inspires more partisan conflict than does Trump's engagement with Pyongyang.
For whatever reason — perhaps familiarity — this round of Trump warnings has a different feel to it. Tensions are high but the reactions seem less stark than the exhibition that surroundedNorth Korea two years ago.
One Iranian statement made it hard to believe they were taking Trump either seriously or literally.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif jibed: "Goaded by #B_Team, @realdonaldTrump hopes to achieve what Alexander, Genghis & other aggressors failed to do."
Zarif named “the B team” as National Security Adviser John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
He said the "B team" is trying to provoke "crazy" U.S. actions.
"Iranians have stood tall for millennia while aggressors all gone. #EconomicTerrorism & genocidal taunts won't 'end Iran.' #NeverThreatenAnIranian. Try respect-it works!"
Maybe this is a more elaborate version of Kim having called Trump a "dotard" in the early going.
For now there is no way to tell for sure how all this will break. We have only the word of both governments that they are not itching for war.