Donald Trump has been accused of hypocrisy for ordering the potentially inflammatory killing of a top Iranian general, after a series of tweets emerged from 2011 of him saying former president Barack Obama would start a war with Iran in order to get re-elected.
The killing of Qassem Soleimani, Tehran’s top military commander in Iraq, has sparked warnings from former diplomats and the international community, and is being described as the biggest escalation of tensions in the region for years.
Mr Trump ordered the airstrike near Baghdad Airport that killed Soleimani, as well as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the senior commander of a major Iraqi militia, on Thursday.
Soleimani was one of the most powerful figures in Iran, enjoying a close relationship with supreme leader Ali Khamenei, and Iranian leaders have vowed to retaliate against the US as a result of his killing.
Between 2011 and 2015, Mr Trump tweeted multiple times that Mr Obama was vying to start a war with Iran because of “his inability to negotiate”.
He repeated his convictions in a video in 2011, saying: “Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate – he’s weak and ineffective.
“So the only way he figures that he’s going to get re-elected, and as sure as you’re sitting there, is to start a war with Iran.”
In 2012, Mr Trump tweeted: “Don’t let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to get elected – be careful Republicans!”
Mr Trump’s action has drawn criticism from social media users who have called him a “hypocrite” for risking a military escalation with Iran after his repeated accusations towards Mr Obama.
One Twitter user said: “We knew [Mr Trump] would start a war to distract people from your IMPEACHMENT and here you are f***ing around with Iran.”
In July last year, Mr Trump tweeted that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN”.
He said: “YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”
The threat came after Mr Rouhani cautioned the president against pursuing hardline policies against Tehran with the warning: “War with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
Under the Trump administration, tensions with Iran have steadily escalated since the US left the Iran nuclear deal.
The framework of the Iran nuclear deal was one of the defining foreign policy achievements of Mr Obama’s presidency. It was agreed between Iran, the EU, the US and the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council, and would have seen international economic sanctions lifted in exchange for limitations on Iran’s nuclear programme.
However, the deal was vetoed by Mr Trump’s administration in 2018 and the US withdrew from the deal.
Mr Trump claimed in 2015, a year before he became president, that the nuclear deal would “lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East”.
Mr Rouhani has warned Tehran “will take revenge” for the death of Mr Soleimani.
“The flag of General Soleimani in defence of the country’s territorial integrity and the fight against terrorism and extremism in the region will be raised, and the path of resistance to US excesses will continue,” he said in a tweet.
“The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.”