The Iranian president slammed the latest U.S. sanctions against Iran’s leaders as “outrageous and idiotic” and mocked President Donald Trump, claiming the White House is “afflicted by mental retardation.”
Hassan Rouhani made the comments in a live TV broadcast Tuesday morning, hours after Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top Iranian officials.
“The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do,” Rouhani said.
Rouhani also said the decision to target Iran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, showed that the Trump administration was not being honest about its desire for talks.
“At the same time as you call for negotiations, you seek to sanction the foreign minister? It’s obvious that you’re lying,” Rouhani said.
A spokesman for Zarif added that the decision means “the permanent closure of the road of diplomacy with the frustrated U.S. administration.”
Speaking at a trilateral meeting with Israel and Russia in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning, National Security Adviser John Bolton said Trump was open to fresh talks about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and “all that Iran needs to do is walk through that open door.”
But he added that the lack of communication from Tehran had been “deafening” and “there is simply no evidence that Iran has made the strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons.”
The executive order signed Monday was the first time the U.S. has targeted an Iranian leader, indicating that the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran are getting personal.
“Generally, when you target a head of state you’re not turning back. That is when you believe all options are at an end,” John Smith, a former director of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), told Reuters.
“Generally, when you target a head of state you’re not turning back. That is when you believe all options are at an end."
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the new sanctions would lock billions of dollars more in Iranian assets.
The latest back-and-forth between Tehran and Washington came after weeks of escalating pressure, including a series of attacks on oil tankers that the U.S. blamed on Iran.
Last week, Iran shot down a U.S. spy drone and claimed it was flying inside Iranian airspace. The U.S. said the drone was in international airspace. In response, the Pentagon launched an operation to hit Iranian missile bases, but Trump cancelled the attack at the last minute, claiming he didn’t want to endanger 150 lives.
Instead, the U.S. reportedly launched a cyber attack against Iranian missile systems.
Cover: In this photo released by an official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a ceremony at Imam Khomeini International Airport some 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, June 18, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)