Critics are accusing U.S. President Donald Trump of hypocrisy for pushing the country to the brink of war with Iran in an election year — something he accused predecessor Barack Obama of doing for political gain back in 2011.
Trump ramped up tensions with Iran late Thursday by authorizing a drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. The attack represents a sharp escalation in tensions between Washington and Tehran, which have been especially high since Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions on the country.
Online users were actively looking up whether the incident might provoke a war on Friday, according to Twitter and Google Trends. “World War III” was among the most unrealistic — but nonetheless popular — search terms of the day.
Many users also recirculated several tweets and comments Trump made back in 2011, when he accused then-president Obama of trying to start a war with Iran because he is “pathetic” and wants to win re-election.
“Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate,” Trump said in a video blog recorded in his Trump Tower office on Nov. 16, 2011. “He’s weak and he’s ineffective.”
Trump originally posted the video on the Trump Organization’s YouTube page back in 2011, as part of a vlog series he conducted during the Occupy Wall Street protests at the time. The videos have since been deleted, but the website Factba.se has preserved and reposted the entire series for archival purposes.
“We have a real problem in the White House,” Trump said. “So, I believe that he will attack Iran sometime prior to the election because he thinks that’s the only way he can get elected. Isn’t it pathetic?”
Trump goes on in the video to describe himself as “more militant and more militaristic” than Obama, although he thinks all other possibilities should be exhausted first in order to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. “I believe in strength,” he said. “But to start a war in order to get re-elected — and I believe that’s going to happen — would be an outrage.”
Trump repeated his accusations in several tweets about Obama between 2011 and 2015. Many of those tweets have been recirculating on Twitter since Thursday night.
Obama was one year away from winning a second term as president at the time of Trump’s 2011 video. He was also in the middle of a years-long effort to bring Iran to the negotiating table in order to hammer out a deal that would prevent it from developing nuclear weapons. That deal was signed in 2015, then later scrapped when Trump took over the White House.
Trump will be up for re-election in November, despite being impeached by the House of Representatives last month.
“In order to get re-elected, @realDonaldTrump just started a war with Iran,” user Kevin Decker tweeted at Trump on Friday, in response to his 2011 comment about Obama.
“This tweet didn’t age well, Donnie,” added user @55andwhat. “President Obama didn’t have to start a war to be re-elected.”
The U.S. and Iran have not declared war on one another at this point, despite escalating tensions over Soleimani’s death.
Trump took another shot at Obama’s Iran nuclear deal in a Friday morning tweet. “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!” he wrote.
Trump also claimed that Soleimani was “directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of millions of people,” and that he was “both hated and feared within the country.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has promised to “take revenge” for Soleimani’s death.