When President Donald Trump goes after other nations with harsh tweets or statements blistering with bravado, there is often a sense that he’s just showing off his favorite diplomatic dance moves. Trump lambastes China and its leader, then praises them. He threatens that a deal will never be done and huge tariffs will be imposed, then relents and suggests another meeting.
The same is true when Trump hurls bombast at Mexico over immigration and trade, or threatens Canada over timber imports, or belittles NATO allies over defense and trade and environmental issues.
But Iran is different.
To National Security Adviser John Bolton the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons has been constant for decades, and demands war. He is again claiming that Iran has ratcheted up its threats to American troops and interests, even as well-versed and trusted American and allied leaders say that is not the case. The New York Times has reported the Trump administration is drawing up a battle plan that includes 120,000 troops but the British general who is the deputy commander of the American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State says “there has been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Syria.”
The waters are further muddied by our two closest allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who constantly pressure Trump to hammer Iran to serve their own interests. The only voices saying Iran is an imminent threat now are ones, like Bolton and Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi royal family, who always say that, no matter how often later events prove them incorrect.
Sunday, Trump tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” But Iran threatens the United States constantly and the last tweet by its foreign minister was no different. He wrote “Goaded by #B_Team” as he boasted that Iran defeated Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan.
Trump, a master of such bluster, must see Iran’s puffed-up chest for what it is, and see Bolton’s unrelenting beating of the drums of war for what it is, too.