Pompeo’s Iran speech: The U.S. secretary of state delivered his “Supporting Iranian Voices” speech at the Ronald Reagan Library and Foundation in California (State Department). Mike Pompeo told an audience mostly made up of Americans who are not of Iranian descent that the Iranian government was spreading violence in the Middle East, and that the clerics were filling their own pockets while the rest of Iran suffered under their hands. The New York Times fact-checked Pompeo’s speech. Analysts weighed in on the speech, mostly with criticism. Former Ambassador John Limbert, who was a hostage during the 444-day Iran hostage crisis, wrote: “Pompeo’s speech has demonstrated that this administration has no knowledge of or interest in history” (LobeLog). According to U.S. officials, Pompeo’s scathing speech was part of a collection of public discourse and online communications meant to “foment unrest” and “pressure Iran” (Reuters).
Read how members of the Iranian diaspora reacted to the speech (Los Angeles Times).
Why Trump tweeted: Shortly after Pompeo delivered his speech, U.S. President Trump threatened Iran on Twitter. It was in response to comments made by President Rouhani during a meeting with Iranian diplomats, where he cautioned about a potential U.S. invasion of Iran (Reuters). The Iranian president said, “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars,” echoing an expression used by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 1991 during the invasion of Kuwait. Following Trump’s tweet, his national security advisor rattled sabers again, saying the president told him that if Tehran "does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price few countries have ever paid” (The Guardian).
Tehran reacts to Trump: The Iranian response to the inflammatory tweet was “slower and more measured” (Atlantic Council). Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani—who Pompeo called in his speech a “thieving thug” worth $300 million—said that “any illogical move by the United States would entail a memorable response.” Trump’s Iran policy appears to have unified the country’s political factions. As the editor of state-run Mehr News Agency tweeted: “Tonight, I retweeted tweets from reformists that under normal circumstances I would’ve never retweeted. The opposite has happened for sure, too. Mr. Pompeo, you’re a fool to have united us!” It wasn’t until evening time in Tehran that the Iranian foreign minister responded with “COLOR US UNIMPRESSED.” Mohammad Javad Zarif then offered commentary on Iran having been around for millennia and having seen the fall of empires, including its own. He also warned the U.S. president to “BE CAUTIOUS.” A day later, on July 25, the Iranian president finally commented on the matter (AP). Rouhani told members of his cabinet in a meeting, “There is no need for us to respond to any nonsensical comment and answer back to them.” This was followed by the foreign ministry spokesman saying that Iran would never take part in “one-sided negotiations” with Washington threatening Tehran (Reuters). It is becoming evident that the Iranian government plans to wait out Trump’s term, and to re-engage the U.S. when the next American president takes office. A senior reformist politician told the Financial Times, “When we face unfair attacks, we have no choice but to answer those attacks. This U.S. approach is not sustainable and we should wait until there is a change in the next Congress or administration.”
Trump wants to talk: Only days after his threatening tweet, Trump claimed that he would still like to negotiate with Tehran (Reuters). During a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the U.S. president said, “We’ll see what happens, but we’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster.”
Is a war coming? Since the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, there has been talk of war with Tehran. Trump’s tweet, which was highlighted in our Quote of the Week, carries the beating of war drums. On July 22, the chief of the Iranian armed forces argued that though the U.S. did not talk about war openly, it was trying to convince its military of an invasion of Iran, according to “precise existing information” (Radio Farda). Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri did not elaborate on what the “information” was. This week, the Western media gave a lot of attention to these Trump tweets from 2011-2013: