Former US President Donald Trump is preparing his defense for a second impeachment trial in the US Senate, but he may also be facing threats from Iran and other hostile actors. Trump was widely hated by the Iranian regime and also faced adversaries in China, Turkey, Russia as well as among extremists in the Middle East. Iran blamed Trump and US Central Command personnel for killing IRGC Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani in January 2020. They have vowed harsh revenge.
The strange story of the drone threat to Trump begins on social media, and so far, largely ends there. On January 21 a Twitter account that appeared linked to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tweeted an image of a shadow hovering over Trump playing golf. Trump is known to like gold and played the game for almost 300 days of his presidency.
“Vengeance is inevitable,” the post said, implying a drone could strike Trump. Iran has a massive drone program and has drones that it claims can fly thousands of kilometers. Some of these are so-called kamikaze drones, that behave like cruise missiles. Iran has used them against Saudi Arabia. BBC said the account was linked to Iran’s supreme leader and notes that it was retweeted by Khamenei’s Farsi account. However at the same time Iran seemed to backtrack and assert that the account @khamenei_site was “fake.” This came as Twitter suspended that account. Apparently Iran didn’t want its supreme leader’s other Twitter accounts, of which he has a half dozen, suspended. It appears that the supreme leader’s inner circle have said they did tweet the image. Iran’s regime tends to want things both ways, to both threaten and behave like an outlaw state but also to be treated as if it is a normal country. Normal countries don’t put up images threatening to kill foreign leaders or former foreign leaders.
The mystery of Iran’s threats nevertheless underpin the fact that Iran and its supporters have said Trump will not be “safe” and that the US should expect revenge for the Soleimani killing. Iran has toned down its rhetoric as US president Joe Biden took office because Iran wants the US to come to the table and negotiate a new Iran deal.