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In America's fevered political landscape, supporters of President Trump often cast criticism of him as a symptom of a condition: "Trump derangement syndrome." Trump's opponents are so possessed by their contempt for him, the diagnosis goes, that they embrace positions and pursue policy goals they would never consider in any other context. Supposed examples of this include the newfound Russophobia among some American liberals and the knee-jerk rejection to Trump's overtures to North Korea — signs of partisan tribalism supposedly displacing political logic.

But Trump and his lieutenants are guilty of their own derangement syndromes, most conspicuously when it comes to Iran. Even as Trump has gone out of his way to cozy up to an autocrat in Moscow, embraced human-rights-abusing Arab monarchs and celebrated his friendliness with the world's most isolated dictator, he sees in Tehran an implacable, irreconcilable enemy.

On Sunday night, the White House ratcheted up tensions with the Islamic republic. Trump issued a dramatic tweet, addressing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in all caps: "NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE."

The tweet received a bullish reply from Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, the following day.

Trump's ire was apparently sparked by comments Rouhani made on Sunday in a meeting with Iranian diplomats. "America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars," Rouhani said, delivering a pointed warning to the Trump administration not to engage in efforts to overthrow the Iranian regime.

Rouhani seemed to be offering a rebuttal to the speech Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered later that day. During that address, Pompeo launched a lengthy attack on Iran's political leadership, arguing the theocratic regime was a corrupt "kleptocracy" and a "mafia."

“To our Iranian American and Iranian friends, tonight I tell you that the Trump administration dreams the same dreams for the people of Iran as you do," Pompeo said, "and through our labors and God’s providence, that day will come true.”

Pompeo's remarks were the latest broadside in a wider diplomatic offensive against Iran. Since reneging on its end of the nuclear deal with Tehran, the White House is pushing for renewed and tougher sanctions on Iran and has cheered all glimmers of protest within the country. Trump has also consistently cast Iran as a global menace, parroting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's talking points about the country's corrosive influence in the Middle East.

There is no doubt senior Trump administration officials want regime change. Pompeo and many of his former colleagues on Capitol Hill court the support of anti-regime outfits in the Iranian diaspora that have little clout at home. National security adviser John Bolton, who has spent much of his career saber-rattling at Iran, issued a statement reiterating Trump's threats. “I spoke to the President over the last several days," it read, "and President Trump told me that if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before." A coterie of other Washington neoconservatives who once championed the ill-fated invasion of Iraq have resurfaced, urging a new confrontation.

That's why numerous Iran analysts are wary of parallels between Trump's current tweets and the "fire and fury" declarations that preceded his historic summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. "Unlike the case of North Korea, enmity with Iran is quite ideological in this administration," said Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group.

Meanwhile, Rouhani's position is growing weaker. Many Iranians now pin the country's slumping economy on the president, angry that the nuclear deal has not delivered the economic benefits he promised. The hard-line forces Rouhani once maneuvered against are ascendant.

The Trump administration "has strengthened the hand of hardline Iranian factions, in the clerical and judicial establishment as well as in the Revolutionary Guards, who always said it was a mistake to strike a deal with the U.S.," reported Najmeh Bozorgmehr of the Financial Times. "These groups, who believe their position has been vindicated, have been able to use the threats from Mr Trump and others to reassert their authority, adding to pressure on Mr Rouhani, whose credibility has been badly damaged by his failure to keep the deal and new economic curbs from Washington."

That could provoke a backlash from the regime, via its proxy forces in various corners of the Middle East. “Western countries should be aware that if they put too much pressure on Iran, it could unleash radical Shia forces and trigger a new wave of Islamic radicalism," added Hossein Marashi, a reformist politician in Tehran.

That may be exactly what Washington's own hard-liners want. On Sunday, Pompeo dismissed any prospect that there are real political differences in Tehran, arguing that Rouhani and Zarif  are “merely polished frontmen for the ayatollah’s international con artistry. Their nuclear deal didn't make them moderates; it made them wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Trump's lieutenants are positioning themselves as champions of revolutionary change within Iran — or for armed conflict with an increasingly cornered adversary.

But the Trump administration's grandstanding on this front is unlikely to galvanize popular discontent within Iran. "The more the U.S. threatens Iran, and the more ordinary Iranians have to deal with economic hardships," argued Vaez, "the less motivation [Iranians] may have for pursuing any kind of radical change." Leadership in Tehran, Vaez told Today's WorldView, is skilled at survival and content to batten down the hatches and wait out the Trump administration.

My colleague Jason Rezaian, who endured a year and a half in Iranian prison, attended Pompeo's event. For all its zeal for change, he observed, the Trump administration is simply the wrong messenger.

"Most of what Pompeo said about the depravity of Iran’s rulers was true," wrote Rezaian, "but when coupled with U.S. moves that directly hurt Iranians — specifically, stiff economic sanctions and the recently upheld travel ban — it is difficult for the administration to support its own claims that the well-being and prosperity of Iranians matter."

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