The Straits Times says

Don't pour oil on Middle East flames

Just when tensions were cooling in North-east Asia after the Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea, it appears that the statesmanship displayed in that encounter does not necessarily extend to the part of Asia also known as the Middle East. On Sunday night, Mr Trump took to Twitter to issue an ALL-CAPS ultimatum to Iran's leadership that threatened punishment "the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before". He was responding to comments by Iran's President Hassan Rouhani who told his foreign service officers that "America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars".

Mr Rouhani is regarded as a moderate and his words are not dissimilar to what any leader would utter when addressing his bureaucrats, or troops. The American President would surely have been aware of this. It is tempting, therefore, to consider whether Mr Trump, under fire for cosying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, was merely indulging his penchant for the diversionary tactic. Fortunately, while Mr Trump may sound like a consummate warmonger - and this may indeed have got him results with Pyongyang - his deeds so far have been significantly less calamitous. Last week, for instance, the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman departed Gulf waters with no apparent plans to replace it.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2018, with the headline 'Don't pour oil on Middle East flames'. Print Edition | Subscribe