After U.S. Announces Deployment, Iran's Military Says It Will Pursue Aggressors
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard says his country will pursue aggressors who attack it. That warning yesterday came after the Trump administration announced it is sending troops - the Pentagon says hundreds, not thousands - sending them to Saudi Arabia after attacks on two Saudi oil facilities. The United States and Saudi Arabia blame Iran for those strikes while Iran denies any responsibility. Will the presence of more troops nearby and also fresh sanctions on Iran have any effect? We'll put that question now to Iranian-American journalist and author Hooman Majd. He joins us from New York. Good morning.
HOOMAN MAJD: Good morning.
BLOCK: We should note that this is a relatively modest troop deployment. Does Iran see it, though, as a direct threat?
MAJD: I doubt that they see it as a direct threat. I think that based on reports that we've seen all the way back to June, when Iran downed a American drone and there was hardly a reaction or at least not a aggressive reaction by the United States, I don't think the Iranians at this point are looking at this as something that is alarming to them.
BLOCK: Well, what about the latest round of sanctions, part of the president's so-called maximum pressure campaign? What kind of impact do you figure that will have since all of the other sanctions that President Trump has reimposed and see pulled out of the nuclear deal don't seem to have changed the equation much?
MAJD: No, and I don't think it will, quite honestly. I mean, this is interesting. This latest sanction on the central bank of Iran. Central Bank of Iran was sanctioned a year ago. This is like piling on to the same sanctions, just calling it something different. And it actually now affects humanitarian aid in terms of how a central bank could pay for it - humanitarian aid meaning food and medicine. But, you know, a good indicator of how the Iranians view these sanctions or at least the government but even the economy views these sanctions is the price of the an exchange rate of the rial versus the dollar, which didn't move with the sanctions. The rial didn't tank. It stabilized over the last six months or so since President Trump withdrew from the deal. And sanctions, threats of war - none of those things have affected the exchange rate, which is kind of indicative of the fact that there's not much more we can do with sanctions. And the Iranians have survived 40 years. The Iran - this particular revolutionary government has survived for 40 years under some sort of sanction, either U.N. sanctions, U.S. unilateral sanctions, multilateral sanctions. They kind of know how to defeat them or beat the sanctions or bust the sanctions, if you will.
BLOCK: Well, what do you figure the Iranian's strategy is at this point? Is it is to wait out the Trump administration, try to engage with it somehow?
MAJD: No, I think they're - (laughter) I think they will eventually - I mean, they'll wait out through 2020, obviously. But I think they're expecting President Trump to win or at least planning that he will probably win reelection. And so, you know, a second-term president might have an easier time negotiating a new deal with Iran than a first-term president would or at least be less likely to be as tough on Iran. It's clear that President Trump wants to meet with the Iranians, wants to meet with the Iranian president. They're seeing that, and President Trump makes no secret of it that he wants to meet and make a new deal. If they can hold out long enough, I think that they might meet with him at some point and try to negotiate a better deal for themselves, not just for America.
BLOCK: We've heard mixed messages from President Trump, of course. He tweeted about being locked and loaded, ready for war with Iran. He also said a military campaign into Iran would be, in his words, very easy. He's also, though, as we say, imposed sanctions. He's talked about diplomacy. How are Iranians reacting to these mixed messages?
MAJD: Well, I think that based on everything we hear from the Iranians and from the Iranian leadership, they're reacting as if nothing has changed. In other words, it's he - President Trump changes his mind every day. But in terms of actual action other than sanctions and other than - which makes life difficult for ordinary Iranians - there hasn't been really anything behind his threats anywhere, not just with Iran. So I think Venezuela's another example other than sanctions. So that - this is the tool that the United States is using, and that's what I believe the Iranians think the United States will continue to use is that tool, which they have an ability to evade.
BLOCK: OK, author and NBC News contributor Hooman Majd, thanks so much for joining us today.
MAJD: Thank you. My pleasure.
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