In media appearances prior to the 2012 election, Donald Trump repeatedly predicted that then-President Barack Obama would start a war with Iran in order to win re-election.
A CNN KFile review found Trump made the claims throughout 2011 and 2012 in radio and television appearances as well as in a since-deleted YouTube blog and on Twitter.
Now president and facing his own re-election battle later this year, Trump ordered a drone strike on Thursday that killed Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, in a major escalation between Iran and the US. Trump celebrated the news on Thursday night by tweeting a picture of an American flag, adding on Friday, “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!”
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox & Friends the US does not “seek war with Iran” but that the US would not “stand by and watch the Iranians escalate and continue to put American lives at risk without responding in a way that disrupts, defends, deters and creates an opportunity to deescalate the situation.”
Trump has consistently criticized Obama’s Iran policy — the chief accomplishment of which was an internationally negotiated deal reached in 2015 that lifted sanctions in exchange for Iran ratcheting down its nuclear weapons program. The Trump administration reimposed all sanctions in 2018.
But before that deal, Trump routinely asserted that Obama would force a confrontation to boost his domestic prospects.
“Our President will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate,” Trump said in a November 2011 video on his YouTube channel.
“He’s weak, and he’s ineffective,” Trump added. “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.”
Speaking on the Sean Hannity radio program in January 2012, Trump predicted “some kind of a war” with Iran prior to that year’s election.
“I say that he starts a war in Iran before the election, which will make it very hard for the Republican to win,” Trump said. “He’ll start a war, you know, lives will be wasted for no reason.”
“I think it’s going to happen sometime prior to the election. There’ll be some kind of a war started,” added Trump.
On Fox News’ On the Record in February 2012 Trump said it was “pretty sad” to say, but said Obama would go to war nonetheless.
“I’ve said before, I think Obama will go to war with Iran because I think he views it as good politically,” Trump said. “That’s pretty sad and it’s a pretty sad thing to have to say, but I think he will absolutely go to war with Iran. I think he views that as a positive from a political standpoint, and I think he’s just waiting for the right moment.”
Speaking on the Laura Ingraham Show in April 2012, Trump repeated his prediction. “I happen to think that the president is going to start a war with Iran,” said Trump. “I think it’ll be a short term popular thing to do. And I think he’s going to do that for political reasons.”
Trump made the same prediction on Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine that month.
“In my opinion, Obama will start a war,” Trump said. “For about three weeks it’d be very popular about, by the way, six months later he’ll be very unpopular, but by that time it’s too late.”
“Well, I think that he would do it,” Trump continued. “I do believe he will do it — whether he does it under the guise of Israel or not — but I do believe he would do it. I’ve been making that prediction. Let’s see what happens. Many of my predictions, as you know better than anybody have come true.”
By Andrew Kaczynski, CNN