First Published: 2017-03-20

How Trump’s Tweets Affect Relations with Iran
Trump administration’s modus operandi has been to deflect one potential crisis by creating another, says Claude Salhani.
Middle East Online

US President Donald Trump is undermining his administration by shooting from the hip with contradictory and often deceitful and misleading postings on Twitter. This very unpresidential behaviour will weigh against him in any negotiations he may have with foreign leaders, especially those mistrustful of the United States for what they perceive to be biased policies.

The Trump administration’s modus operandi has been to deflect one potential crisis by creating another in the hope that the media’s — and therefore the public’s — focus will shift from a potentially embarrassing outcome created by the fallout of the first crisis. The primary tool of choice has been the US president’s Twitter account, which has caused his presidency immense damage.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow described Trump as “dangerous and unpredictable, gauche and greedy, temperamentally unsuited and emotionally unsound”. His Twitter episodes, Blow said, “make him look not only foolish but unhinged”.

“Presidential credibility is American credibility,” Blow wrote.

From January 20 to date, Trump’s tweets have time and again sent his White House staff members scrambling to defuse one live wire after another.

During these weeks, the periodical barrage of tweets has harmed the president’s office, damaging its prestige and credibility. Trump’s tweets have hurt the standing of the United States, probably more than all the accusations thrown at it by the regime in Tehran.

When the media kept pressuring the Trump administration to disclose information about potential Russian involvement in his presidential campaign, Trump came up with the ludicrous allegations that former president Barack Obama had him wiretapped.

US Representative Adam Schiff, D-California, who receives top intelligence briefings in his role as ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, expressed particular concern that Trump’s mischaracterisation or fabrication of classified information might affect the Iran nuclear deal.

One week after Trump put out his accusatory tweets alleging that the former president had illegally wiretapped his phones inside the Trump Tower in New York, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to downplay Trump’s diatribe by saying the president had used the word wiretap in quotations and did not mean he thought Obama personally wiretapped him

Trump is coming under pressure from close advisers in the White House to get tougher on Iran, as tensions between the United States and the Islamic Republic reached new heights and face additional stumbling blocks.

Several unrelated incidents have contributed to rising tensions between Washington and Tehran. During the first week of March, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps naval units hampered a US vessel sailing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Observers see the move as Iran’s testing Trump to see what it can get away with.

Many within the administration want to see the nuclear deal between Iran and the United States and other world powers renegotiated. They are not alone in not trusting the Islamic Republic.

Besides imposing sanctions, however, US options are limited. Sanctions imposed by the United States in the past have achieved only limited success, given the ease with which Iran can import without hassle from Dubai, just across a narrow waterway, as it has been doing for centuries.

Perhaps Trump would rather get into a tweeting feud with Iran’s former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has apparently revived his Twitter account.

Claude Salhani is the Opinion section editor of The Arab Weekly.

Copyright ©2017 The Arab Weekly

 

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