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Iran Issues Its Own Warning In Response To Trump Tweet

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Iran is issuing a warning of its own this morning. A top Iranian military official said U.S. threats against Iran will draw a, quote, "strong, unimaginable and regrettable response." That's according to Iran's official news agency. Earlier this week, President Trump tweeted that Iran risks dire consequences, quote, "the likes of which few throughout history have suffered before" if it makes threats against the U.S. Bloomberg reporter Golnar Motevalli is in Tehran and joins us now. Thanks so much for being with us.

GOLNAR MOTEVALLI: Hi.

MARTIN: Can you just give us a sense of how regular Iranians are making sense of this escalating rhetoric?

MOTEVALLI: I think most ordinary Iranians are very worried. I think since Donald Trump's election, but more specifically, since he pulled out of the nuclear deal in May. They watched the effects on the economy happen in front of their faces in slow motion. The currency has depreciated massively, and they're under a huge amount of economic strain. But when they look at a tweet like that, I don't think they know whether to take it seriously or not. But, if anything, it at least concerns them a great deal.

MARTIN: You mention the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal known as the JPCOA. U.S. sanctions are expected to snap back into place soon. How's the country preparing for that?

MOTEVALLI: Well, it's a very good question because one of the things that - Donald Trump's action by withdrawing from the deal has, to some extent, shown the Iranian government's lack of preparedness. And they have tried to introduce different policies, to stem the decline of the currency to kind of protect Iranian manufacturers and producers. But people are still frustrated because those policies haven't entirely worked.

MARTIN: So does that mean regular Iranians are both irked at the U.S. for reimposing these sanctions and also at their own government for not having these structural safeguards put in place?

MOTEVALLI: Well, I think that the anger at the Americans is possibly slightly stronger. I think Iranians were sort of thinking, well, what do we do now? We haven't violated this, but it's being forced into a position where it's going to break apart anyway by one of the major signatories. But at the same time, they are also frustrated at the government because they feel that they've been slow in acting to meet the challenges that have been brought on.

MARTIN: Well, the Trump administration is stoking that domestic anger at the Iranian government. In a speech over the weekend, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said explicitly that Iranians should rise up against the government there. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE POMPEO: 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. When the United States sees the shoots of liberty pushing up through rocky soil, we pledge our solidarity.

MARTIN: So the U.S. calling for a revolution in Iran, a declaration that clearly comes with some historical baggage. How is that being received by Iranians?

MOTEVALLI: I don't know a single person here who actually listened to Pompeo's speech. I think the problem is that for the vast majority of Iranians, these kind of advances ring extremely hollow when, on the one hand, you are saying that you want to start a war on Iran's economy, and on the other hand, you're trying to goad a population into usurping a government, which, for all its faults, at the end of the day, Hassan Rouhani was elected on a popular mandate. I don't think he has any native popular appeal here whatsoever.

MARTIN: Golnar Motevalli. She writes for Bloomberg in Tehran and joined us on Skype. Thanks so much.

MOTEVALLI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.