In an interview with notorious right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh on Friday, President Donald Trump launched into what one commentator described as a "genocidal screed" against Iran, threatening to "do things... that have never been done before" to the nation of more than 80 million people.
"Trump has taken the U.S. and Iran to the brink of war, not Iran. He left a nuclear deal that was working and is economically blockading the country and starving its people."
—Sina Toossi, National Iranian American Council
"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 of Iran, a frequent target of the president's militaristic bluster and threats of deadly force. In addition to pushing the two nations to the brink of all-out war earlier this year by assassinating Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Trump has also threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites—which would be a war crime.
The president's comments came less than a month before the November election and just 24 hours after his administration unveiled crippling new sanctions against Iran's financial sector that could severely hinder the country's access to humanitarian goods as it struggles to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Listen to Trump's remarks:
“If you fuck around with us, if you do something bad to us, we are gonna do things to you that have never been done before.” — the President of the United States pic.twitter.com/RfDKchaw7i
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 9, 2020
"Trump has taken the U.S. and Iran to the brink of war, not Iran," Sina Toossi, senior research analyst at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), tweeted in response to Trump's comments. "He left a nuclear deal that was working and is economically blockading the country and starving its people. He could see a war as helping him these next few weeks, or after November 3 if the results aren't decisive. Vote!"
New US sanctions on 18 Iranian banks will effectively cut Iran off from the global financial system completely—in the middle of a pandemic. They hurt Iranians and strengthen hardliners; they are counterproductive and cruel.
The American people can speak out by VOTING TRUMP OUT!
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) October 9, 2020
Foreign policy experts have been warning for months that the president, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other hawkish administration officials could be laying the groundwork for an attack on Iran just ahead of next month's election—a possible ploy analysts have dubbed Trump's "October Surprise."
"Going to war is a risky political move," Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, wrote last month. "Though the public tends to rally around the sitting president initially, the effect can be short lived if questions arise about the defensive nature of the fighting. The more Iran is seen as the aggressor, the more people will rally around Trump, and the more he will benefit electorally."
In a statement on Thursday, NIAC president Jamal Abdi urged the American public to remain "vigilant to ensure the Trump administration does not do irreparable damage or pull the U.S. into a disastrous war before his time in office comes to a well-deserved end."
"People like Mike Pompeo working from inside the administration," Abdi warned, "are leaving no stone unturned to ensure the next administration can't engage in diplomacy and Iranian society is as thoroughly decimated by sanctions as possible before his time in office ends."