On Monday morning, the world woke up to President Trump’s all-caps tweet to the President of Iran, sent late the night before. “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” the President warned Hassan Rouhani. By Tuesday, it seemed that nuclear war was not, in fact, imminent. When I spoke on Wednesday with Mark Dubowitz, an expert on Iran who advises the Trump Administration, he had an entirely different theory.
The Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, had delivered a major speech on Sunday night, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, in California, accusing the Islamic Republic’s leaders of corruption and encouraging protests in the country in advance of a series of punitive new measures the Administration plans to take against the regime. “But it wasn’t even one news cycle,” Dubowitz said, “before Trump had to send his all-caps tweet and stomp on Pompeo’s messaging.” Dubowitz, who attended the speech at the Reagan Library, has been consulting with the State Department on what he says are a range of new measures on Iran, including replacing the nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of in May over the objections of European allies and some key advisers, including the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. The new policy was meant neither to suggest imminent war, as Trump’s tweet did, nor a new round of negotiations with the Iranians, as Trump offered in the course of walking back his inflammatory tweet.
In the space of two days, Trump had once again utterly confused the world