President Trump and his top U.S. diplomat ramped up rhetoric aimed at Iranian political leaders and clerics late Sunday night, with Trump warning Iranian President Rouhani to not threaten the United States again or face grave consequences.
Trump's threat, which was delivered in a tweet in all capital letters, came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo assailed the regime in a scathing speech, labeling it a kleptocracy that operates like the mafia and pledging the United States will support the aims of Iranian protesters who have had the courage to publicly denounce and continue to protest the regime's corruption.
"To Iranian President Rouhani: 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!" Trump tweeted.
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In his remarks, Pompeo had called out the worst offenders in the Iranian government by name, accusing Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, of profiting from a $95 billion hedge fund. He also announced that the United States is launching a new 24/7 Farsi-language designed to circumvent internet censorship "so that ordinary Iranians inside of Iran and around the globe can know that America stands with them."
Trump was responding to a bellicose warning from Rouhani, issued ahead of Pompeo's speech.
"Americans should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars," Rouhani told a meeting of Iranian diplomats, according the state news agency.
"You are not in a position to incite the Iranian nation against Iranian security and interests," he said.
The hostile words between the leaders came amid a cross-country uprising in Iran, the fiercest the regime has faced since 2009. It also comes just three weeks before U.S. sanctions, which were lifted during the Obama administration, are set to be re-imposed with more severe sanctions on Iran's oil market planned to begin in November.
Pompeo, during a speech at the Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California, issued the administration's strongest and most significant denunciation of Iranian leaders to date, accusing them of becoming multi-millionaires while mismanaging the economy, using Iranians' money to sponsor terrorism and bolster other tyrannical regimes while leaving their own people to suffer in poverty.
"I think everyone can agree that the regime in Iran has been a nightmare for the Iranian people," he told the audience, which was filled with many prominent Iranian-Americans who fled when the Islamic Revolution took place in 1979 and the ayatollahs came to power.
"Sometimes it seems the world has become desensitized to the regime's authoritarianism at home and its campaigns of violence abroad, but the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government's many abuses."
"And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either," he said.
"In light of the protests and 40 years of regime tyranny, I have a message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you; the United States supports you; the United States is with you."
Just 12 weeks into his tenure as secretary of State, the former CIA director leveled detailed corruption charges against several members of the Iran's leadership.
Khamenei has his own "personal, off-the-books hedge fund called the Setad, worth $95 billion, with a ‘B,'" Pompeo said. "The wealth is untaxed, it is ill-gotten, and it is used as a slush fund for the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]."
Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran's judiciary, is worth at least $300 million, Pompeo said, accusing Larijani of embezzling the public funds into his own bank account. He pointed out that the Trump administration sanctioned Larijani in January for human rights abuses.
"Call me crazy—you won’t be the first—but I'm a little skeptical that a thieving thug under international sanctions is the right man to be Iran’s highest-ranking judicial official," Pompeo said.
IRGC officer and Minister of Interior Sadeq Mahsouli is nicknamed the "Billionaire General" and went from being an IRGC officer at the end of the Iran-Iraq war to being worth billions of dollars.
"Being an old college buddy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just might have something to do with it as well," he said to laughter.
Grand Ayatollah Makaram Shirazi is known at the "Sultan of Sugar" for his illicit trading of sugar that has generated more than $100 million, Pompeo pointed out.
"He has pressured the Iranian government to lower subsidies to domestic sugar producers while he floods the market with his own more expensive imported sugar," he said. "This type of activity puts ordinary Iranians out of work."
"The level of corruption and wealth among Iranian leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government," he said.
Pompeo highlighted Iran's a decades-long campaign of violence and destabilization abroad, all motivated by the regime's mission of exporting its revolution and intolerance.
"Assad, Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, Shia militant groups in Iraq and Houthis in Yemen feed on billions of regime cash while the Iranian people shout slogans like ‘Leave Syria, think about us.'"
He also pointedly mentioned a recent disrupted plot by an Iranian "diplomat" based in Vienna who was charged with supplying explosives for a terrorist bomb scheduled to go off at a political rally in France.
"This tells you everything you need to know about the regime: At the same time, they're trying to convince Europe to stay in the nuclear deal, they're covertly plotting terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe."
At one point, when Pompeo was listing several Americans detained and missing inside Iran, and the Trump administration's efforts to free them, a protestor interrupted.
"The Trump-Pence regime is kidnapping children," the protester shouted to which the audience booed then broke into a chant of "USA, USA, USA."
Pompeo waited for the commotion to die down before remarking, "If there were only so much freedom of expression in Iran."
Pompeo also did not leave Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif unscathed, referring to them as "merely polished front men for the ayatollahs international con artistry."
"Their nuclear deal didn't make them moderates; it made them wolves in sheep's clothing," he said.
During a question and answer session, Pompeo also addressed widespread anger in the Iranian-American community, which was expressed on Twitter during the speech, that the Trump administration's travel ban on Iranian citizens coming to the U.S. is hurting average Iranians, as well as the exchange of ideas between to the two countries.
Pompeo unapologetically defended the travel ban, arguing that U.S. security comes first, and the Iranian government has refused to provide data-sharing information on its citizens who want to travel to the U.S.
"Iran continues to deny us the basic data-sharing systems that hundreds of countries—or excuse me, dozens and dozens of countries have already provided us. We would like Iran to do that."
"We still allow students to come in. There are many students. I’m sure there are students here tonight who are Iranians who are here studying. We welcome that," he said. "But this administration does have as one of its primary policies to make sure that we appropriately vet all those who come to the nation so that we can keep our country safe. That's the plan. That's the policy."
He also addressed criticism that the Trump administration is fomenting more hostility with Iran that will only ratchet up the consequences for both countries, including more attacks on the United States, Israel and other western allies.
"I always remind those who think it’s not possible or think the time horizon will be measure din centuries not hours, I always remind them that things change. There are disjunctive moments. There are times when things happen that are unexpected, unanticipated. Our revolution could be one of them."
"We don't know the right moment," he continued. "We don't know the day that the behavior of the Iranian regime will change. But we do know the things the world is obligated to do so that when the right time comes, when the right moment comes, the opportunity is more likely to find its fulfillment."