Tweet By Trump Warns Iran's Hassan Rouhani To Be Cautious
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
President Trump has a message for Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. Be cautious. That is how Trump ended a tweet that he sent out last night. The tweet was written in all capital letters. It was addressed to Rouhani. And it said, quote, "never, ever threatened 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 and death," end quote. President Trump was apparently responding to some remarks that Iran's president made over the weekend in which he warned the U.S. that, quote, "a war with Iran is the mother of all wars." I'm joined this morning in studio by Trita Parsi. He's author of "Losing An Enemy: Obama, Iran And The Triumph Of Diplomacy." He's also head of the National Iranian American Council. Good morning, sir.
TRITA PARSI: Good morning.
MARTIN: All right, so this exchange - President Rouhani's words and then President Trump's tweet - feels very aggressive. What do you make of it?
PARSI: It is indeed extremely aggressive. And it is extremely worrisome because the Trump administration, since it came into office, have let a very valuable channel of diplomacy with Iran essentially die - a channel that was created as a result of the nuclear negotiations. And now instead, they're making these types of threats over Twitter, etc., in an already explosive situation. And it is worrisome precisely because this very much could lead to a military confrontation.
MARTIN: You really think so?
PARSI: With someone like Trump at the helm, I would think that it would be more dangerous to underestimate the risks of war than to overestimate.
MARTIN: What about the leaders in Iran?
PARSI: Certainly. And the rhetoric coming out of Iran has rarely been particularly helpful. But I think it's important to keep in mind the Iranians lived up to the nuclear deal. The entire world has been supportive of the nuclear deal, with the exception of two states in the Middle East - Israel and Saudi Arabia. And the IEA has confirmed now more than 11 times that the Iranians were complying with it. It is the United States and Trump that has pulled out of this deal and restarted an escalation with Iran that simply didn't exist before.
MARTIN: It is not just President Trump who has words for Iran. Over the weekend, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was giving a speech in California. And he directly addressed the Iranian-Americans in the audience. Here's what he had to say.
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MIKE POMPEO: To our Iranian-American friends tonight, I want to tell you that the Trump administration dreams the same dreams for the people of Iran as you do. And through our labors and God's providence, that day will come true.
MARTIN: Are Iranian-Americans open to this message?
PARSI: Well, Secretary Pompeo put forward a lot of criticism against the government in Iran that I think a lot of people in the Iranian-American community would agree with them.
MARTIN: He called them corrupt.
PARSI: They are corrupt.
MARTIN: He said a lot of them are very rich. And they are very rich because they are very corrupt. That's what Pompeo said.
PARSI: They're very corrupt. There's a massive mismanagement. And, of course, everyone is aware of the political repression. But there is a major leap of faith to take the frustration Iranian-Americans and Iranians have with the government in Iran and then think that Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton are the answer to Iran's problems. It's a leap of faith of a size that I think makes it very difficult for a lot of people to agree with.
But I think, at the end of the day, the fact that only hours after Pompeo gave this speech, in which he was essentially claiming that he cared for the people of Iran, to see then Donald Trump essentially threaten war over Twitter, I think, reveals that, at the end of the day, the outreach to the Iranian community was quite fake, very superficial and had no element of actually listening to the community. If the Trump administration wanted to listen to the Iranian-American community and have a genuine dialogue, that dialogue should have taken place before they decided to impose the Muslim ban, before they decided to pull out of the nuclear deal instead of coming now after having all of those things and pretend they want a dialogue.
MARTIN: How do Iranian-Americans feel about President Trump pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal?
PARSI: Well, the overwhelming majority of Iranian-Americans, as well as Iranians inside of Iran, supported the nuclear deal.
MARTIN: They did?
PARSI: They wanted to see a more positive relationship. They believed that if tensions were to reduce, it would actually make it easier for people inside of Iran to push for democratic change and, at the end of the day, for a durable sustainable democracy to emerge from Iran. It has to come from inside the country, not from Washington. So they were very much in support of it. I think many of them have become quite disillusioned because the economic benefits and the changes that were supposed to come haven't come through largely because of Trump not only pulling out. But even before pulling out of the deal, he was sabotaging the deal. He was undermining the sanctions relief. So as a result, I think they're quite disillusioned with it. But when it happened, they were overwhelmingly in support and had very high hopes.
MARTIN: So you're saying that Iranian-Americans and Iranians may actually agree with some of the criticisms of the Trump administration that it levies at Iran. But they don't secularly appreciate the messenger?
PARSI: Well, it is a strange messenger, at the end of the day, because I think a lot of Iranian-Americans would agree that Trump right now is undermining democracy in the United States. So how is he then the right person to establish democracy in Iran?
MARTIN: Let me ask you about these economic sanctions that are about to be reimposed on Iran next month. A lot of people say this back-and-forth between Rouhani and Trump over the weekend has a lot to do with the fact that the U.S. is about to reimpose those sanctions. And that, of course, is happening as a result of the U.S. pulling out of the nuclear deal. How are those sanctions likely to hit ordinary Iranian-Americans if they are indeed?
PARSI: They will indeed be hitting ordinary Iranians as well as Iranian-Americans. We saw that with the sanctions that the Obama administration imposed. The people who are feeling the primary pain of that are ordinary people and actually not the regime. In fact, the corruption of the government enables it to protect itself from a lot of these economic pressures in a way that ordinary Iranians cannot. And one thing we saw in 2011 that a lot of people are afraid of is that that massive economic pressure created a medicine shortage inside of Iran, in which even ordinary medicine was almost impossible to get a hold of. Iran was very much on the brink of a medical disaster as a result of this. And a lot of people are fearing that that will once again be a situation they will be facing as a result of the escalation of the Trump administration.
MARTIN: That's interesting - a very specific fear there you say that people are worried is looming on the horizon. Trita Parsi is author of the book "Losing An Enemy: Obama Iran And The Triumph Of Diplomacy." He's also head of the National Iranian American Council. Thank you so much for coming.
PARSI: Thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.