WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – U.S. President Donald Trump talked up his anti-Iran policy in a profanity-laden tirade, telling conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that Tehran knows what he called the consequences of undermining the United States.
"Iran knows that, and they’ve been put on notice: if you f--- around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are going to do things to you that have never been done before,” Trump said.
Trump has said he ordered the assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in January.
During a 90-minute interview where he mostly raged against his Democratic rivals, Trump promoted his foreign policy record, including relations with China, before shifting focus to Iran.
The U.S. president reiterated his impossible claim to secure a new agreement with the Islamic Republic if reelected. "If I win, we’ll have a great deal with Iran within one month,” said Trump, also claiming that Iranian officials are "dying” to have him lose.
Limbaugh, seemingly unsettled by the prospect of diplomacy with Iran, blurting out: "A deal on what?” interrupting the president.
"No nuclear weapons,” said Trump, who pulled the U.S. out of the multilateral Iran nuclear deal in 2018.
The deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), had seen Iran scale back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against its economy.
"He’s desperate to try to win this election, so he’s trying to be the tough guy again,” said Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
But what’s more concerning than the president’s rhetoric is his policies, Slavin added.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced a new wave of sanctions against Iran’s financial sector, including several private banks.
Slavin said Trump’s entire approach to Iran is "sanctions and more sanctions”.
Ryan Costello, policy director at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said that while the Iranian economy is struggling under sanctions, there is no evidence that Tehran is spending less on its military.
"Their talking points don’t seem to add up. I think you can take as much money as you want out of the Iranian economy and continue to double down on threats... Iran is just going to divert its resources to defense and so forth,” Costello told Middle East Eye.
Slavin echoed his comment on the efficacy of sanctions. Asked if Trump’s "maximum pressure” campaign against Iran is working, Slavin said: "It depends on what the goal is.”
"If the goal is simply to make 80 million people miserable, they’ve succeeded brilliantly. If the goal is to make Iran change its policies in the region, they’ve totally failed,” she told MEE.
"It shows not just the lack of imagination, but a real sadistic streak, a willingness to penalize an entire country.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh tweeted Saturday that the Iranians would not be intimidated.
"The Iranian people aren’t intimidated by the bullying rhetoric of the failing and lawless U.S. regime,” he said.
"Our people leave no stone unturned in defending Iran’s dignity. WE will choose response to U.S. crimes—including sadistic sanctions and criminal assassination of ISIS (Daesh’s) number 1 enemy Gen. Soleimani.”
The spokesperson for Iran’s permanent mission to the United Nations also dismissed the U.S. president’s words as electioneering.
"Mr. Trump’s attempt to portray himself as a tough guy is unsurprising as the Presidential election in America is fast approaching,” Alireza Miryousefi told the American weekly magazine Newsweek.
Iran, he said, would not back down in the face of Trump’s remarks, nor by his administration decision to double down on sanctions or even actions like General Soleimani’s assassination.
"The U.S. is waging a cruel and illegal economic war, tantamount to economic terrorism, on the people of Iran,” Miryousefi said. "The U.S. also cowardly assassinated General Soleimani, a hero in the fight against Daesh and other terrorists, while he was the official guest of the Iraqi government on a peace mission.”
"The people of Iran have proven to be resilient and not intimidated by such inappropriate, irresponsible and empty rhetoric,” he added.