Is Trump Trying to Provoke Iran for Political Gain?

October 11th, 2020 - by Dave DeCamp / & Ali Harb / Middle East Eye

January 2020: Trump assassinates top Iranian leader; threatens to strike 52 more targets if Iran dares to seek revenge.

Trump Tells Iran Not to ‘F**ck Around’ With US

Dave DeCamp /

 (October 9, 2020) —Speaking to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on Friday, President Trump delivered a profanity-laced threat to Tehran.

“Iran knows that, and they’ve been put on notice: if you f**k 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 also told Limbaugh that if he is reelected, he will have a new deal with Iran “within one month.” But since the US withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal by reimposing sanctions on Iran in 2018, it has been clear the “maximum pressure” campaign will not bring Iran to the table.

Trump’s comments came as the administration continues to ramp up its “maximum pressure” campaign. On Thursday, the US slapped new sanctions on Iran’s banking system. 

The new sanctions target 18 Iranian banks, almost the entire financial sector of the country. The US went ahead with the new measures despite concerns over the humanitarian impact. The new sanctions came just a day after Iran reported its highest number of daily deaths due to coronavirus

The US insists the new sanctions have exemptions for humanitarian goods. But the measures will discourage foreign banks from doing any business with Iran, including humanitarian deals. US sanctions imposed on Iran throughout the years have already crippled the country’s economy and caused things like medicine shortages. History shows, economic sanctions always have a devastating impact on the civilian population of the target country.

The Washington Post pointed out in its report on the new sanctions that the idea of blacklisting Iran’s entire financial sector was pushed by Israeli officials and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a hawkish think tank that regularly calls for regime change in Tehran.

“To land a 12th-round economic knockout, it’s time for Mr. Trump to throw one more punch: Blacklist the entire Iranian financial industry,” Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg of the FDD wrote in The Wall Street Journal on August 25th.

While President Trump warns Iran not to “f**k” with the US, it seems the Iran hawks in the US and Israel driving his policy hope to provoke Iran into a confrontation. 

After a blast at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in July, Israeli sources and media outlets said Israel was responsible. The Natanz blast came during a string of mysterious fires and explosions across Iran. During that time, anonymous sources told Business Insider that Israel was involved in some of the explosions in an attempt to provoke a military confrontation with Iran before Trump was out of office.

“It’s been decided to follow the Trump administration’s lead of exerting ‘maximum pressure’ on the Iranians,” a former Israeli official told the Insider.

Trump Says Iran Is on Notice Not to ‘f**k Around’ with US

Ali Harb / Middle East Eye

WASHINGTON (October 9, 2020) — US President Donald Trump talked up his Iran policy in a profanity-laden tirade on Friday, telling conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh that Tehran knows the consequences of undermining the United States.

“Iran knows that, and they’ve been put on notice: if you fuck 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.

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.

New Deal with Iran?

The US president reiterated his pledge 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, stressing that Iranian leaders 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 US 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 programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against its economy.

With the rigorous international inspection regime implemented by the JCPOA, proponents of the deal say the agreement would have ensured that Iran did not acquire a nuclear weapon.

“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 US Treasury Department announced a new wave of sanctions against Iran’s financial sector, including several private banks – measures that critics say may worsen foreign currency shortages and usher in a humanitarian crisis.

Slavin said Trump’s entire approach to Iran is “sanctions and more sanctions”.

But US administration officials and Trump supporters insist that the sanctions are working. Trump, who has been recovering from the coronavirus while tweeting incessantly about various subjects, told Limbaugh on Friday that Iran has become a “very poor nation” because of his policies.

“You don’t see the terror the way you used to see the terror, and they know if they do anything against us, they’ll pay,” the president said.

Iranian civilians protest impact of increased US sanctions.

‘Sadistic Streak’

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 sending less money to its regional proxies and allies or 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 defence and so forth,” Costello told MEE.

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 penalise an entire country for the actions of a government that those people don’t control.”


•  “US Imposes Sanctions on Iran in Defiance of European Humanitarian Concerns,” Middle East Eye, October 8, 2020.

•  “How Trump Is Pushing to Enforce ‘UN’ Sanctions on Iran in Spite of UN Objections,” Middle East Eye,September 18, 2020.