WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump issued an all-caps warning to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani late Sunday night, telling the leader via Twitter he would face “SEVERE” consequences if he continued to threaten the United States.
“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!” Trump tweeted Sunday night.
The president’s missive came in response to remarks Rouhani delivered in Tehran hours earlier Sunday warning Trump not to escalate tensions with Iran because any confrontation between the two nations would result in the “mother of all wars.”
"Do not play with the lion's tail or else you will regret it," Rouhani said in a speech delivered in Iran’s capital, according to media reports. "Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars.”
Trump’s threat via tweet was dismissed shortly after by Iran’s state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency, which called it a “passive reaction” to Rouhani’s remarks and “bullying words.”
The exchange between the two leaders comes two months after Trump, against the protests of U.S. allies including France and Germany, withdrew from the multinational Iran Nuclear Deal. The accord, initially entered into in 2015 under the Obama administration, sought to curtail the development of Iran’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic relief, but Trump, who long regarded the agreement as “weak” and “soft,” pulled the U.S. out of the deal in May and has since pushed for economic sanctions on Iran.
Trump’s tweets came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also took aim at Iran in a sharply worded speech delivered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California on Sunday where he called Iran’s religious leaders “hypocritical holy men.”
“The level of corruption and wealth among regime leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the Mafia more than a government,” Pompeo said. He also described Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
The administration’s tense words for Rouhani comes as the president continues to grapple with the foreign policy fallout of his meetings with Russian President Vladmir Putin last week and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month.
Trump has faced criticism from his own party leaders for his handling of the summit with Putin in Helsinki, in which he sided with Putin’s denial of election interference by the Russians in 2016. The president, amid the uproar of his comments, was forced to walk back his remarks, stating days later that he misspoke and indeed had confidence in the U.S. intelligence agencies conclusions of Russian hacking.
The Trump administration has also struggled with getting North Korea to commit to a more detailed denuclearization plan since Trump and Kim met in Singapore on June 12. Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang for follow-up talks earlier this month, describing them as “good faith” discussions, but North Korean officials via state media, offered a different take, accusing the U.S. of making “gangster-like” demands.
Prominent Iranian analyst Seed Leilaz downplayed the war of words, telling The Associated Press he believes it was “the storm before the calm.”
Leilaz told the AP he was not “worried about the remarks and tweets,” and that “neither Iran, nor any other country is interested in escalating tensions in the region.”