There’s a unique set of targets Iran is likely eyeing as it contemplates retaliation for the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general in Iraq on Jan. 2: Trump Organization properties in 11 countries outside the United States.
President Trump’s real-estate company owns or manages buildings bearing the Trump name in Canada, Dubai, India, Indonesia, Ireland, the Philippines, Scotland, South Korea, St. Martin, Turkey and Uruguay. Those properties are all listed on the company’s website.
“[Iran] will look for the most opportune chance to strike back in a way that hurts President Trump personally,” Iran scholar Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution said on a recent Lawfare podcast. “I will assume security around any Trump property is enhanced.”
On Jan. 5, an Iranian official who advises the country’s president hinted that Iran is, in fact, tracking Trump properties. Hesameddin Ashena, who runs the Iranian president’s research outfit, posted a tweet, without comment, linking to a Forbes web page on Trump’s personal wealth that lists 19 Trump properties, mostly in the United States. The Trump Organization owns those properties. Most of the firm’s international properties are owned by others, with the Trump Organization branding and managing them.
“We have ZERO problems with the American people,” Ashena wrote, in English, in a separate tweet. “Our sole problem is Trump. In the event of war, it is he who will bear full responsibility.”
The Trump Organization did not respond to Yahoo Finance questions about security enhancements at properties it owns or manages.
Watching for retaliation
An Iranian attack on a Trump property in the United States would be an overt act of terrorism likely to trigger an aggressive U.S. military response that could be devastating for Iran. It might also generate domestic support for Trump and help him get reelected if it occurred before the November election. If Iran denied responsibility for such an attack, suspicion would fall on them anyway and it might not matter.
An attack on a Trump property outside the United States might be different, since the United States wouldn’t automatically be able to characterize it as a violation of U.S. sovereignty. Foreign investigators might bungle the investigation into who did it. The United States could retaliate militarily against Iran as an ally, but that would be odd if it were in association with a country like Indonesia or the Philippines that isn’t a normal military partner and might not even want U.S. assistance.
Security experts point out that in addition to conventional military assets such as missiles, mines and submarines, Iran has cyberwarfare capabilities and could cause digital disruption. Cyber attacks could narrowly target individual organizations or aim to cause havoc by disabling power grids or other essential infrastructure.
Iranian-backed militias are known mainly for the trouble they cause in other parts of the Middle East, such as Yemen, Lebanon and Syria. But Iran has gone much further from home in the past to avenge perceived grievances. The Iranian proxy group Hezbollah planned and carried out two attacks on Jewish and Israeli sites in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1992 and 1994 that killed more than 100 and injured hundreds more. The trigger for those attacks was Argentina’s suspension of cooperation on nuclear technology with Iran.
The theocratic nation faces tough choices in weighing how to respond to the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and five others as they were leaving the Baghdad airport on Jan. 2. Trump has threatened devastating retaliation for any attack that harms Americans and can be traced to Iran. And Iran would be the immediate suspect in a covert attack. “There will be a carefully calibrated response over the long term,” says Maloney of the Brookings Institution. “With an eye to what serves their interests best.”
Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential tip line: firstname.lastname@example.org. Encrypted communication available. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.