(TMU) — Iran’s leadership has come out swinging against Washington’s latest round of sanctions, with Tehran blasting U.S. President Donald Trump in harsh terms that appear to reflect the new norm in diplomatic relations between the two rivals.
In a live speech televised early Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani excoriated the latest move by the U.S. president to sanction senior officials in Iran, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as “outrageous and idiotic.”
According to the Associated Press, the Iranian leader pointedly noted:
“You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?”
“The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do.”
Earlier Monday, Iran warned that the new U.S. sanctions would seal any possibility of further diplomatic talks between Tehran and Washington.
The acidic response from Tehran came hours after Trump’s announcement of the new “hard-hitting” sanctions against Iran’s top officials, during which he appeared to confuse Iran’s current top leader with the former ayatollah and leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
While signing off on the new round of U.S. penalties before cameras, Trump said:
“The assets of Ayatollah Khomeini [sic] and his office will not be spared from the sanctions … The supreme leader of Iran is the one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime.”
Trump said he's placing new sanctions on Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini — he died in 1989
Posted by NowThis Politics on Monday, June 24, 2019
However, as international media outlets were quick to note, the previous clerical leader of Iran’s government and leader of the Iranian revolution of 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, died in 1989. Following his death, he was succeeded as the most powerful political and religious authority within the Islamic Republic of Iran by current leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The sanctions, which aim toward denying Iran’s top officials access to financial resources and blocking them from the U.S. financial system, are unlikely to have much impact on the country, which has been reeling in recent months from other rounds of U.S. sanctions.
Richard Johnson, a former deputy leader and participant in the Iran nuclear deal, told BBC Radio 4:
“Frankly I doubt that there’s many international companies doing business with these organisations, so I don’t think the sanctions will have a really substantive effect on Iran’s economy.
I do think it’s much more symbolic than it is substantive.”
Tensions have mounted in the Persian Gulf since Trump broke from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for a gradual end to crippling economic sanctions and its reintegration into the world economy.
These tensions culminated in Iran’s shoot-down of a U.S. spy drone, which is believed to have been an advanced prototype worth about $220 million. While Washington claims the U.S. drone was flying in “international airspace” over the narrow Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, Tehran has insisted that the drone—which has powerful surveillance capabilities—was in flight above southern Iran.
Trump claims that while the sanctions were partly a response to the interception of the drone, they would have happened anyway.
Iran has defended its firing upon the drone, with Foreign Minister Zarif tweeting last Thursday:
“The U.S. wages #EconomicTerrorism on Iran, has conducted covert action against us & now encroaches on our territory. We don’t seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters.”
The US wages #EconomicTerrorism on Iran, has conducted covert action against us & now encroaches on our territory.
We don't seek war, but will zealously defend our skies, land & waters.
We'll take this new aggression to #UN & show that the US is lying about international waters
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) June 20, 2019
In the meantime, hawkish U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton—a fervent advocate of “regime change” in Tehran—vowed from a trilateral security summit with Russia and Israel in Jerusalem that the U.S. seeks talks with Iran. Bolton said:
“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 … 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 Bolton’s words, combined with Washington’s new efforts to besiege Iran by economic means, are sure to draw incredulity from Tehran.
.@realDonaldTrump is 100% right that the US military has no business in the Persian Gulf. Removal of its forces is fully in line with interests of US and the world. But it's now clear that the #B_Team is not concerned with US interests—they despise diplomacy, and thirst for war.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) June 24, 2019
In a tweet, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said:
“Imposing useless sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the commander of Iran’s diplomacy (Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif) is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy.
Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security.”