Iran warned Tuesday that new U.S. sanctions targeting its supreme leader and other top officials meant “closing the doors of diplomacy” between Tehran and Washington amid heightened tensions, even as President Hassan Rouhani derided the White House as being “afflicted by mental retardation.”
President Donald Trump called that a “very ignorant and insulting statement,” tweeting that an Iranian attack on any U.S. interest will be met with “great and overwhelming force … overwhelming will mean obliteration.” His secretary of state said the Iranian statement was “immature.”
The sharp remarks from Tehran shows the pressure that the nation’s Shiite theocracy and its 80 million people feel over the maximalist campaign of sanctions by the Trump administration. From Israel, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Iran could walk through an “open door” to talks with America but also warned that “all options remain on the table” if Tehran makes good on its promise to begin breaking one limit from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The verbal volleys recalled North Korea’s statements about Trump before the dramatic change in course and the start of negotiations with Washington. In 2017, state media quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling Trump “the mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”
However, there are no signs the Iranian leadership would welcome talks.
“The useless sanctioning of Islamic Revolution Supreme Leader (Khamenei) and the commander of Iranian diplomacy means closing the doors of diplomacy by the U.S.’ desperate administration,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted. “Trump’s government is annihilating all the established international mechanisms for keeping peace and security in the world.”
Trump enacted the new sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates on Monday.
U.S. officials also said they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, something that drew Rouhani’s anger during his televised address Tuesday.
“You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks,” an exasperated Rouhani said. He called the sanctions against Khamenei “outrageous and idiotic,” especially since the 80-year-old Shiite cleric has no plans to travel to the United States.
“The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do,” he added in Farsi, using a term similarly as offensive in English.
While U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he hadn’t heard Rouhani’s reaction to the new sanctions, he said that if true, “that’s a bit immature and childlike.”
“But know that the United States will remain steadfast in undertaking the actions that the president laid out in this strategy to create stability throughout the Middle East, which includes the campaign we have, the economic campaign, the pressure campaign that we have on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo added.
The crisis gripping the Middle East stems from Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. a year ago from the nuclear deal with Iran and other world powers and then imposing crippling new sanctions on Tehran. Recently, Iran quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium to be on pace to break one of the deal’s terms by Thursday, while also threatening to raise enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 if European countries still abiding by the accord don’t offer a new deal.
Citing unspecified Iranian threats, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there. All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, 40 years after the Islamic Revolution.
The sanctions followed Iran’s downing on June 20 of a U.S. surveillance drone, worth over $100 million, above the Strait of Hormuz, sharply escalating the crisis. Trump then said he pulled back from the brink of retaliatory military strikes but continued his pressure campaign against Iran.
Mousavi’s statement echoed that of Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, who warned Monday that the situation in the Persian Gulf is “very dangerous” and said any talks with the U.S. are impossible in the face of escalating sanctions and intimidation. Meanwhile, the U.S. envoy at the United Nations, Jonathan Cohen, said the Trump administration’s aim is to get Tehran back to negotiations.
Later Tuesday, Rouhani spoke by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron and told him: “If the Americans again want to violate the waters and airspace of Iran, Iran’s armed forces are assigned to confront them and will take a strong approach,” according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
But he added that Iran does not have any interest in escalating tensions in the region and never seeks war with any country, including the United States, the news agency reported, quoting him as saying: “We have always been committed to improving the stability and security of the region, and we will take efforts in this direction.”
Pompeo held talks Monday with officials in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia about building a broad, global coalition that includes Asian and European countries to counter Iran. He is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the nuclear deal with Iran.
Meanwhile, Bolton said Trump was open to real negotiations to eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program and “all that Iran needs to do is walk through that open door.” He was meeting with his Russian and Israel counterparts in a first-of-its-kind trilateral security summit in Jerusalem that was focused on Iranian involvement in regional conflicts, particularly in neighboring Syria.
“As we speak, American diplomatic representatives are surging across the Middle East, seeking a path to peace. In response, Iran’s silence has been deafening,” Bolton said. “There is simply no evidence that Iran has made the strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons and open realistic discussions to demonstrate that decision.”
But only hours later, Bolton told a news conference that “all options remain on the table” if Iran goes over the limit for its low-enriched uranium stockpile as planned by Thursday.
“It would not be in their interest to do it but they have done a lot of things recently that are not in their interest,” Bolton said.
Russia’s national security adviser has rebuffed U.S. and Israeli attempts to isolate Iran and is urging both countries to show “restraint” toward the Islamic Republic.
Nikolai Patrushev spoke at a three-way meeting Tuesday with his Israeli and American counterparts in Jerusalem. He says attempts to present Iran “as the main threat to regional security” or to equate it to international terrorist groups are “not acceptable.”
He added that “Iran is contributing a lot to fighting terrorists on the Syrian soil and stabilizing the situation there.”
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, earlier called for the three countries to agree on expelling foreign forces from neighboring Syria. He says Israel will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence there.
Patrushev called on Israel and the U.S. to encourage a political settlement in Syria.
Iran’s president is mocking President Donald Trump, going so far as to say that the White House is “afflicted by mental retardation.”
The comments by Hassan Rouhani came after the Trump administration sanctioned Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday.
Rouhani said the decision meant the “certain failure” of the White House’s efforts. He also criticized U.S. officials for wanting to sanction Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Rouhani spoke live in a televised address on Tuesday.
Iran’s president says the new U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader and others are “outrageous and idiotic.”
The comments by Hassan Rouhani come a day after the Trump administration sanctioned Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates.
Rouhani says the decision meant the “certain failure” of the White House’s efforts. He spoke in a live television address on Tuesday.
Rouhani also criticized U.S. officials for wanting to sanction Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
An exasperated Rouhani said: “You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel, the United States and Russia have a common objective to remove Iranian forces from Syria.
Netanyahu says that doing so will “create a more stable Middle East.” He spoke at a meeting of the three countries’ national security advisers on Tuesday.
Iran and Russia have played a key role in backing Syrian President Bashar Assad and helping him overcome rebel forces in his country’s civil war. Netanyahu has long warned that Iran now looks to leverage that influence into establishing a military foothold along Israel’s northern front.
The three-way summit in Jerusalem with the American and Russian officials was expected to focus on Iranian involvement in conflicts across the region, particularly in neighboring Syria.
It comes amid escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton says President Donald Trump is open to real negotiations and “all that Iran needs to do is walk through that open door”
Bolton spoke at a high-profile trilateral security summit in Jerusalem on Tuesday.
He says American envoys are surging across the region in hopes of finding a path out of escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran but that the silence of the Islamic Republic has been “deafening.”
Bolton says: “There is simply no evidence that Iran has made the strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons.”
His comments alongside his Israeli and Russian counterparts come after Iran slammed the Trump administration over new U.S. sanctions targeting its supreme leader. Iran’s Foreign Ministry says the measures spell a “permanent closure” to diplomacy between the U.S and Iran.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman says the new U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader and other top officials mean the “permanent closure” of diplomacy between Tehran and Washington.
That’s according to a report carried by the state-run IRNA news agency on Tuesday, quoting the spokesman, Abbas Mousavi.
Mousavi says the “fruitless sanction on Iran’s leadership and the chief of Iranian diplomacy mean the permanent closure of the road of diplomacy with the frustrated U.S. administration.”
Trump enacted new sanctions Monday targeting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. U.S. officials also say they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
This comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. over its unraveling nuclear deal and as Iran last week shot down a U.S. military surveillance drone.