President Trump discussed Iran with reporters on Saturday, before heading to the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David. The President had recently decided to not go ahead with an aerial strike against Iran on Thursday, which his generals had estimated would cause 150 Iranian deaths. The strike would have been a response to the downing of a US surveillance drone, reported to have been in Iranian airspace.
While the President has appeared to show mercy, he plans to increase the economic strangulation of the Islamic Republic: “Iran right now is an economic mess, they’re going through hell. The sanctions have hit them hard, more sanctions are going to be put on, a lot more, it’s hard to believe you can even put (more sanctions) on,” Trump told reporters on Saturday.
Trump said he would be willing to make a deal with the Iranians and that he wanted to lift sanctions to help improve their economy, invoking his presidential campaign, he said he would call it, “Let’s make Iran great again.”
A reporter asked Trump if it would had made a difference if the planned strike on Thursday was estimated to kill 10-15 Iranians instead of 100, Trump responded, “Anything is a lot when they shoot down an unmanned drone.”
Trump also mentioned the manned spy plane, reported by Iran to have been close to the drone they shot down Thursday, “There was a plane with 38 people yesterday, did you see that? I think that’s a big story. They had it in their sights and they didn’t shoot it down. I think that was very wise.”
Although the President seems to have dialed down his threatening rhetoric, when it comes to military strikes at least, he then later tweeted on Saturday, “I never called the strike against Iran “BACK,” as people are incorrectly reporting, I just stopped it from going forward at this time!”
The new sanctions will take effect on Monday. Iranians Foreign Minister Jayad Zarif recently called sanctions an “economic war,” and has said, “war and talks-with or without preconditions-don’t go together.” Trump still seems determined to go with this failing strategy to bring the Iranians to the table for talks.
Dave DeCamp is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn NY, focusing on US Foreign policy and wars. He is on Twitter at @decampdave.