Since the so-called “mainstream media” spends much of its time criticizing him, President Donald Trump has adeptly used social media to circumvent what he calls the “fake news” and communicate his policies to the masses at home and abroad. But that skill set has taken on strategic significance.
“Trump has shown himself to be a master of information warfare,” said Rich Higgins, a former White House National Security Council strategic communications specialist.
“Every tweet by the president triggers news reports and reaction, sometimes at the highest levels of foreign governments,” Washington Times security correspondent Bill Gertz noted in a Jan. 8 report.
One of the latest firestorms Trump set off involved a tweet threatening to attack cultural sites in Iran.
Military analysts note that among the various ways of using force, one method is known as “expressively” — the use of force without a specific objective meant for domestic purposes or simply to cause pain to the enemy.
Higgins noted that Trump’s warning that he could target cultural sites contributes to Iranian military fears because it signals to the ruling mullahs that the United States is not above targeting things considered sacred by the theocratic regime.
Additionally, the declaration further diminishes support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which seeks to control Persian culture for Islamist ends.
Higgins also noted that Trump’s warning will signal to the Iranians that attempting to place weapons and forces inside mosques or other religious sites will not prevent them from being struck.
In a post on Jan. 4, the president noted that in the aftermath of the drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani that Iranian officials were talking about targeting American assets in revenge.
Trump tweeted: “Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”
Military analysts “see the tweet by Trump as a clear example of a new type of warfare rarely used in decades by political or military leaders: information warfare,” Gertz wrote. “By declaring that cultural sites have been targeted by U.S. military planners, the president put the Iranians on the defensive.”