JERUSALEM, Israel – Growing tension between Iran and the United States could be leading to a possible showdown. The latest came when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called US sanctions against Iran's oil industry, "the frontlines of confrontation."
President Trump says Iran is on the ropes.
"If you look at Iran the first day that I got to office – or let's look at it differently – a day before he [Rouhani] got to office, everybody was saying Iran would be taking over the Middle East; it was just a question of when. Now they're just looking to survive," Trump said Wednesday in a White House meeting with the emir of Kuwait.
For months, demonstrations on the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities have defied the regime. Protestors blame their leaders for the crumbling economy because it is spending Iran's treasury on foreign wars throughout the Middle East.
Iran's currency is continuing to plummet, reaching its lowest rate on record.
Iran Currency Exchange, Photo, AP Video
"There is no glimmer of hope that the situation changes," said currency trader in Iran Mostafa Shahriari. "Up to now [we've] seen no kind of practical and effective way or practical solution on behalf of the government to solve this problem."
It's part of the US administration's strategy.
"If I get the logic of it – and there is logic to it – is that through economic sanctions that then produce internal unrest and therefore pressure on the regime, the regime has to [be] thinking twice about its ability to maintain these far-flung commitments across the regime," Middle East expert and author Jonathan Spyer told CBN News.
Jonathan Spyer, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff
The US fanned the flames by pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal and re-imposing economic sanctions – and there's more to come.
"Remember that in November we have the beginnings of oil sanctions on Iran and the intention to end Iran's ability to export oil, you know, a major new blow," Spyer explained. "So we are just at the beginning of this to a certain degree, the beginning of real Western pressure on Iran."
Rouhani promises further defiance.
"We will continue by all means to both produce and export our oil," he said. "Oil is in the frontline of confrontation."
Iran also warned it could shut down the Straits of Hormuz through which much of the world's oil passes.
Straits of Hormuz
Another frontline in this ongoing war is Israel's regular air assault on Iran's growing military presence inside Syria. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) says it has hit 200 Iranian targets so far this year.
Spyer says there are "potential tools" available to pressure the Iranian regime.
"There's a whole bunch of potential tools in the box, so to speak, to continue to put pressure on the regime, economic, political and military," he said. "I think what we're going to be seeing in the months ahead is an increasing usage of those and an increasing coordinated usage of those to roll back Iran across the region."