President Donald Trump threatened massive retaliation against Iran for an attack that country’s government is allegedly planning as retaliation for the United States’ drone-strike slaying of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in January.
“According to press reports, Iran may be planning an assassination, or other attack, against the United States in retaliation for the killing of terrorist leader Soleimani,” Trump said in a late-night tweet on Monday. “Any attack by Iran, in any form, against the United States will be met with an attack on Iran that will be 1,000 times greater in magnitude!”
The press reports cited by the president appear to be a reference to a Sunday Politico article which reported Iran was weighing the assassination of a U.S. diplomat in South Africa. That article in turn cited two unnamed intelligence officials who said Lana Marks, America’s ambassador to that country, could be the target.
The president repeated his warning to Iran during an interview on Fox and Friends Tuesday morning, saying “We’re all set…They’ll be hit a thousand times harder.”
Intelligence officials claim they’ve been aware of the alleged Iranian plot to kill Marks since Spring, but have recently discovered more specific information about it, reports Politico.
The Trump administration’s decision to kill Soleimani in January prompted the Iranian government to respond with a missile strike against bases in Iraq that injured several U.S. service members.
“We hope that they do not make a new strategic mistake,” said an Iranian government spokesperson on Tuesday in response to Trump’s tweet, reports Al Jazeera, adding that any such mistake “will witness Iran’s decisive response.”
Trump’s threats against Iran continue the president’s oscillation, in word and deed, between a peacemaker who says he wants to wrap up America’s endless wars and a bellicose leader willing to ratchet up international tensions.
Last week, U.S. Gen. Frank McKenzie confirmed prior reports that the U.S. plans to cut its troop presence in Iraq from 5,000 to 3,200. The Wall Street Journal reports that would reduce our military footprint in the country to where it was in 2015. The Trump administration also plans to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan to 4,500 by late October, about half the number that was in the country when Trump took office.
Also last week, the president renewed the national emergency first issued by President George W. Bush in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. That move received a sharp rebuke from Rep. Justin Amash (L–Mich.).
On Thursday, Donald Trump quietly renewed the national emergency declared by GWB 19 years ago today. This is insane. There is no continuing “emergency” related to the 9/11 attacks, but there is a continuing use of 9/11 as a pretext for the president and Congress to abuse power. pic.twitter.com/eUhWQMBYIH
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) September 14, 2020
Trump has also fended off efforts to limit his power in other Middle Eastern engagements, including vetoing a resolution that would have cut off U.S. support to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen last year. His administration has also ramped up America’s drone war in Somalia, conducting 40 strikes there compared to Obama and Bush’s combined 41, according to Airwars.
On Tuesday, news also broke that Trump had wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but had been talked out of it by his military advisors. The president has twice before attacked Syrian government facilities in response to that country’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people.
The disjointed nature of Trump’s first term—bringing troops home from some conflicts, continuing or even increasing our involvement in others, all while playing a dangerous game of brinksmanship with Iran—allows the president and his defenders to sell whatever narrative they want about his foreign policy.
At the Republican National Convention (RNC) earlier this month Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.) celebrated Trump for being willing to kill terrorists abroad and tear up the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. In contrast, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R–Fla.) used his convention speech to praise Trump for knowing “we are strongest when we fight hardest, not in distant deserts, but for our fellow Americans.”
Trump’s own RNC remarks embody that same dissonance. In the space of three sentences, the president bragged about killing Soleimani and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, keeping America out of new wars, and increasing military spending.
The president’s constant molting—from dove to hawk and back again—still ultimately leaves him less inclined toward intervention than his immediate predecessors. His mixed record on war, and willingness to tweet out serious threats against Iran, disqualify him from being anything close to a peace candidate.