So, yes, Trump might very well be making threats here in the hope of scaring Rouhani into, say, signing on to a tougher replacement for the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by his administration in May, or at least convincing the Iranian president to dial down his rhetoric. (The tweet was ostensibly a response to a televised speech delivered in Tehran on Sunday afternoon in which Rouhani threatened that “peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars”: Is that a literal translation, one wonders?) There is at least some merit in the idea of pushing Rouhani to back down. I think it is fair to say that Iran’s leaders felt safe assuming that war, much less a conflict with “CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” was not on the table if they did not accept the deal brokered by John Kerry and Earnest Moniz in Switzerland.
Could it actually work for Trump, though? It is still too early to say what if anything of substance will emerge from his summit with Kim. There has been less bizarre noise from that corner of the world lately, but North Korean aggression has waxed and waned more or less at random for half a century. Nor is it clear exactly what Trump would want out of a revised Iranian nuclear deal. One obvious shortcoming of the previous arrangement was the fact that it did not permit the United States to inspect Iranian military bases — you know, the kinds of places where one would expect things like nuclear weapons programs to be developed. But does Trump even know this?