Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Picture: AFP
Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Picture: AFP

On Sunday night, US President Donald Trump cracked his knuckles and went ALL CAPS on Twitter.

His message is sure to make it into the museum of Trump tweets (yes, there is such a thing) for its bombastic brilliance, its acerbic assertiveness and its savage insecurity.

His words were: "To Iranian President [Hassan] Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!"

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted right back with biting humour: "UNIMPRESSED ... We’ve been around for millennia & seen fall of empires, incl our own, which lasted more than the life of some countries. BE CAUTIOUS!"

The proximate cause of Trump’s temper tantrum appears to be a warning by Rouhani describing a potential armed conflict between the two nations as "the mother of all wars".

The less proximate cause is the deterioration of the US into just another raving loony country under Trump.

A major peer-reviewed study by Princeton and Northwestern universities concluded four years ago that the US government was an oligarchy that represented powerful elites and not the people.

That study concluded: "Economic elites and organised groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence."

Very few will disagree that the Tweeter-In-Chief has shifted the needle more into oligarch territory.

So is the mother of all wars actually a possibility?

The mind-blowing answer is: yes.

Both Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and his national security adviser, John Bolton, called for air strikes against Iran before joining the Trump administration.

Bolton wrote in The New York Times in 2015: "An attack need not destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. By breaking key links in the nuclear-fuel cycle, it could set back its programme."

More likely, though, is that Trump is using his Kim Jong-un playbook, which led to a summit where an agreement — sadly, none of it in writing — was reached to denuclearise the North Korean peninsula.

The approach appears to be to soften the enemy up on Twitter with threats of nuclear war before bewildering them with an offer of diplomacy.

Let’s hope this, and not Bolton’s fantasy, is what’s really going on.