Tehran officials careful to avoid kneejerk reaction to threats as rial hits all-time low
Iran has dismissed Donald Trumps threats of consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before after the US presidents late-night Twitter tirade at the Islamic Republic.
Hostile rhetoric between Washington and Tehran escalated on Sunday after a tit-for-tat between Trump and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. Trump responded to Rouhanis warning that the US shouldnt play with the lions tail by posting a tweet in capital letters addressed to the Iranian president.
Iranian officials were dismissive of Trumps tweet, which called on Rouhani to never, ever threaten the United States and be cautious, but the US presidents remarks provoked jitters in the Iranian market.
The Iranian national currency was sent into a tailspin when trading opened on Monday, exacerbating months-old fluctuations that have prompted protests in Tehrans Grand Bazaar. The rial, which has been rapidly depreciating against the dollar after Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear deal in May, hit a fresh all-time low. On Monday, 1 bought 92,000 rials on the black market, though many exchange bureaux had stopped trading.
The price of gold coins also soared significantly; the value of the dollar and gold coins serve as a barometer of Iranians confidence in their government and the countrys economic situation.
Senior officials in Tehran were careful to avoid any kneejerk reaction to Trumps tweet while the state-run news agency Irna said Rouhanis message was merely a repetition of what the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, had said in the past: Never threaten an Iranian.
The head of the countrys voluntary basij paramilitary force, Gholamhossein Gharibpour, more forcefully rejected the US presidents rhetoric. What Trump is saying against Iran is merely psychological warfare. He wouldnt dare to make the mistake of taking any actions against Iran, he said.
According to the semi-official Isna news agency, he said: We will not give up on our revolutionary values and beliefs and we will stand against imperialists and tyrants, and those few who have fallen for this psychological warfare of this crazy president should know that he wishes the destruction of all of us. Our people and our armed forces will stand up to enemies and will not yield.
Foaz Izadi, a prominent Iranian commentator close to the establishment, accused Trump of attempting to distract attention from domestic pressures in the US.
This is designed to address his base in the US. You need to remember that he is facing elections in November and if Democrats gain power in the US congress, they will impeach him, Izadi told the Guardian.
Elections are going to be quite important for him and he is using rhetoric that is suitable for the base that voted for him, using everything in caps and looking tough. In reality, remember he used the same type of rhetoric against North Korea and in the last few months, he has given a lot of things that North Koreans wanted from the US. North Korean policy has been tough on rhetoric and quite weak in substance when it comes to US interests.
Izadi said Iranian officials are concerned about Trump, however. They think he is a dangerous person. I think Rouhani in the last few weeks has changed his rhetoric also. He has spoken about the US foreign policy in terms he hadnt used before. The rhetoric is negative and increasing on both sides, and people inside Iran are worried.
Tehrans foreign ministry spokesman, Bahram Qassemi, also condemned an intervention at the weekend by Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, who called Irans ruling elite a mafia during a speech at the Ronald Reagan library in California on Sunday.
The US secretary of states hypocritical and absurd speech in the gathering was only a propaganda exercise and showed the unlimited desperation of the US administration more than ever, Qassemi said, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
These remarks are a clear example of the countrys interference in Irans internal affairs and exactly in line with its long-term destabilising and destructive policies in the region, he added, saying that Pompeos intervention would encourage solidarity among people inside Iran.
On Twitter, many Iranians used #StopMeddlingInIran to voice their opposition to Trump and Pompeo. Many reacted to Trumps tweet by recycling his tweet from 2013 about Iran, which said: Remember that I predicted a long time ago that President Obama will attack Iran because of his inability to negotiate properly not skilled!
The Trump administration is seen in Iran as particularly close to a fringe, cult-like, extreme Iranian opposition, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), which is bent on regime change and has no visible support inside the country.
Jamal Abdi from the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said: In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, the Bush administration worked closely with a handful of Iraqi exiles who championed war. Clearly, Pompeo is hoping to elevate voices who would set the US and Iran on a collision course to conflict over the majority in the Iranian-American community who have been shocked and dismayed by this administrations disastrous approach.