The president issued the warning after Iran issued a statement ridiculing the White House in response to sanctions ordered by Trump, which targeted the leader of the Iranian regime and senior Iranian military commanders.
“Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Days earlier, Trump pulled back a retaliatory strike by U.S. forces in response to the downing of a United States drone by an Iranian missile. The president held the attack back after learning 150 people would be killed, a number he considered not proportionate to Iran’s downing of an unmanned drone.
“Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words ‘nice’ or ‘compassion,’ they never have. Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone,” the president wrote on Twitter.
“The wonderful Iranian people are suffering, and for no reason at all. Their leadership spends all of its money on Terror, and little on anything else. The U.S. has not forgotten Iran’s use of IED’s & EFP’s (bombs), which killed 2,000 Americans, and wounded many more,” the president added.
Trump signed an executive order on June 24 imposing sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior figures. Sanctions against Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are expected later this week.
In a televised address on June 25, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said sanctions against Khamenei would have no practical impact because the cleric had no assets abroad.
Rouhani described the U.S. moves as desperate and called the White House “mentally retarded,” an insult that other Iranian officials have used in the past about Trump. Rouhani and his cabinet run Iran’s day-to-day affairs, while Khamenei, in power since 1989, is Iran’s ultimate authority.
“The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded,” Rouhani said. “Tehran’s strategic patience does not mean we have fear.”
Trump, when asked if he is open for negotiations, told reporters at the White House on June 25 he is “ready to do whatever.”
“Doesn’t make a difference,” the president said. “Whatever they want to do, I’m ready.”
Asked if he has an exit strategy if war with Iran breaks out, Trump said “You’re not going to need an exit strategy. I don’t do exit strategies.”
“Their country is not doing well economically at all. That could be changed very quickly, very easily,” Trump said. “But they have to get rid of the hostility from the leadership. The leadership – I hope they stay, I hope they do a great job – but they should talk to us peaceably.”
Any strike against Iran would be the first attack on the Islamist regime after decades of hostilities.
Trump withdrew the United States from the multinational Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed increasingly crippling sanctions. The sanctions against Iran’s oil sector kicked into full gear in May.
Tehran threatened to disrupt oil shipments in the Strait of Hormuz in response to the sanctions. The United States suspects that the regime followed through on that threat less than two weeks after the sanctions took effect, with an attack on four oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. A month later, Washington accused Tehran of attacking two more tankers on June 13.
Tehran continues to deny any involvement in the tanker attacks but admits to downing the U.S. drone. Iran claims the drone was in its airspace. The United States asserts that the drone was in international airspace.
The sanctions on Iran’s oil sector have effectively starved the Iranian economy of the main source of revenue Tehran uses to import food for its 81 million people.
Reuters contributed to this report.