Iranian Judicial Chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi were among several other officials who responded to U.S. President Donald Trump's recent comments that came after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's belligerent speech.
Amoli Larijani threatened that "any illogical move by the United States would entail a memorable response," the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported on July 23.
Araqchi, however, said he hoped the situation would not escalate to a level that would force Iran to stop other regional countries’ oil exports, Iranian media reported.
Official reactions to the war of words between Trump and Rouhani have been minimal as of midday July 23 in Tehran, but more officials offered their reactions to the sabre rattling later in the day. Iranians and Americans on social media, however, blasted both, although there was also some support for both sides.
Trump tweeted an elaborate direct message to Rouhani, which was later dubbed the “Caps lock diplomacy” by social media users: “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
This was apparently in reaction to a speech by Rouhani in which he threatened to close “many other straits other than the Strait of Hormuz” in case the flow of Iran’s oil to international markets is disrupted as a result of U.S. sanctions.
In an expression borrowed from a Saddam Hussain speech dating to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Rouhani threatened on Sunday that “a war with Iran would be the mother of all wars” and warned Trump “not to play with the lion’s tail,” otherwise he will “regret” it later.
Tasnim news agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), appeared to be the only Iranian media outlet that reported Trump’s tweet on July 23. However, it buried the story under several other reports. The agency did not comment on Trump’s remarks.
In reaction to Trump’s tweet, Brigadier General Gholamhossein Gheibparvar, head of the IRGC-linked Bassij militia, characterized Trump’s statement as “psychological warfare,” and stressed in a typical early reaction, “He cannot do a damn thing against Iran,” Tasnim reported early on July 23.
In a commentary in the administration-owned newspaper, Iran, political commentator Sadeq Zibakalam said Rouhani’s statement about “the mother of all wars” was an indication of his “pacifist” intentions.
He said the statement meant that “Rouhani was prepared to make peace with America but has his own conditions.”
The analysis came as many Iranian social media activists noted that the main point of Rouhani’s speech was plagiarized from Iran’s onetime archenemy Saddam Hussain, the former president of Iraq.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi missed Trump’s tweet in his weekly press conference on July 23, but lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s address to Iranian-Americans in California, characterizing his criticism of the corruption and hypocrisy of Iran’s ruling clerics as “vulgar, baseless, and deceitful.”
Pompeo had blasted Iran’s ruling elite and its religious leaders for using their positions to “line their pockets” with riches while the average person "cries out for jobs, reform, and opportunity."
He called Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Islamic religious leaders in the theocratic government "hypocritical holy men" and pointed to officials who had amassed hundreds of millions of dollars of wealth from their positions.
On social media, Iranian activists supporting each side of the argument used two different hashtags, #IslamicRegimeMustGo and #StopMeddlingInIran, sometimes continuing their own war of words online. The sharp difference between the two hashtags reveals the divide between various groups of Iranians.
In the first group, Dr. Eynollah tweeted, “This is not a threat, it's a promise! I suggest Rouhani, Zarif etc, pack your bags now go where you children live, in Europe & America!”
and another user in the other group tweeted, “And if you dare, try Iranian determination again and see the SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES & SEVERE RESPOND from Iranians. Times have changed Mr. President, you don't think #Iran's situation is the same as 1953.”
Most other tweets cannot be cited for a possible violation of decency and editorial standards.
Criticizing Rouhani’s threat, one user wrote, “Didn’t Rouhani know that Saddam had already used ‘the mother of all wars’ about the war with Iraq? Why the Islamic Republic does not replace war-mongering with politics?”
Another Twitter activist hoped “Rouhani was not providing fuel for World War III.”