Buoyant Trump has Iran in his sights

If the ex-President returns to the White House, he will turn up the heat on Tehran


DES MOINES, IOWA - JANUARY 15: Former President Donald Trump speaks at his caucus night event at the Iowa Events Center on January 15, 2024 in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowans voted today in the state’s caucuses for the first contest in the 2024 Republican presidential nominating process. Trump has been projected winner of the Iowa caucus. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The working title for Donald Trump Part II is “The Revenge”. If greenlit by voters, it will see him carry out his vow to root out America’s “threat from within” by going after the “radical left”.

But the world has changed since Trump made those fire and brimstone threats in early November and now it’s not just his domestic political opponents who should fear his wrath.

In a victory speech after sweeping the Republican Iowa caucuses, Trump said that "Israel never would have been attacked" if he had still been president. He blamed Iran and vowed to solve the “horrible” situation “very fast” if re-elected.

The temperature of the region is only rising. On the day of the caucuses three Iranian ballistic missiles exploded close to the US consulate in Erbil, Iraq, two Navy SEALs were presumed dead in rough seas after intercepting a ship with missile parts for Tehran-backed Houthis, and a US-owned cargo ship was hit by a Houthi missile off the coast of Yemen.

Trump, who risked war with Iran by killing Qasem Soleimani in a drone strike, clearly feels he has unfinished business with the region’s biggest sponsor of terrorism.

His forceful approach contrasts with the de-escalation policy adopted by Biden, who has been careful not to confront Tehran. In his statement announcing air strikes on Houthis in Yemen, Biden didn’t even mention Iran, the group’s puppetmaster.

Trump, in his Monday night speech, went on to say that sanctions he imposed on Iranian oil exports when he was president left the country “broke”.

He said: “[Iran] had no money to give to Hamas and Hezbollah. For four years, we had no terror.”

Since Biden relaxed Trump's “maximum pressure” sanctions on Iranian oil, experts estimate that Tehran has made an additional $35 billion through surging exports.

And while Biden says he won’t allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, on his watch Tehran has increased production of highly-enriched uranium and is “close” to weapons-grade material, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in December.

One wonders what vengeance Trump — who ordered the targeted killing of Soleimani in response to an uptick in attacks by its proxies on US targets — would unleash on Iran in response to its proxies triggering a war with Israel and targeting US ships.

Trump has already revealed what he would do with what he terms the “threat from within” that the conflict has revealed. He has vowed to cancel the visas of foreign students who participated in anti-Israel protests, resurrect his Muslim ban and expand ideological screening of visa applicants to block people with “undesirable attitudes”.

But Trump still has a very steep hill to climb to become the 47th president. Popularity within the Republican Party is hardly an indicator of popularity across the US.

Since losing in 2020, Trump falsely claimed the election was stolen, kindled the 6 January violence and took top-secret documents to Mar-a-Lago. The majority of voters tend to look down on this behaviour, as do the courts.

In the 2022 midterms, the last time voters were asked for their view, he was blamed when a “red wave” of Republican candidates failed to materialise. Voters cited their fear of his handpicked candidates and anger over abortion restriction. Trump is responsible for stacking the Supreme Court, which ruled against abortion.

In any event, first Trump has to secure the Republican nomination, which he looks almost certain to do. But if Nikki Haley runs him close in the New Hampshire primary on 23 January there is a slim, albeit narrow, path to her getting the nomination. A recent poll shows she has cut his lead to single digits: 39 to 32 per cent.

By the time Americans go to the polls in November to vote for their president, Biden is hoping that the Israel-Hamas war — and everything around it — will be a faded memory, a dot in the rearview mirror.

Trump, on the other hand, is desperate to make it an election issue, if he is the Republican candidate, and a presidential issue, if he is elected. He intends to serve his revenge to Tehran, and his many other enemies, cold. The world may not yet have seen America’s true and most devastating response to October 7.


More than 250 Jewish entertainers have criticised the Oscars for leaving Jews out of their new diversity and inclusion quotas.

The open letter accuses the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of “discriminating against a protected class by invalidating their historic and genetic identity”.

The Academy now stipulates that winners of the “best picture” category must have two cast and crew from two under-represented groups -- but Jews are not eligible.

Among the celebrities who have signed the letter are David Schwimmer, actor-producer Josh Gad and actress Debra Messing.

The letter, organised by non-profit group Jew in The City said: “The absence of Jews from ‘under-represented’ groupings implies that Jews are over-represented in films, which is simply untrue.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive