Iran Blasts Trump's New Sanctions: White House Is 'Mentally Retarded'

Retaliatory sanctions enacted by Washington against Supreme Leader Khamenei are 'outrageous and idiotic,' Tehran's president Rohani says

Trump signs new sanctions Iran's supreme leader at the White House, June 24, 2019.
Mandel Ngan/AFP

Iranian President Hassan Rohani on Tuesday described renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran as desperate and called the White House "mentally retarded", an insult Iranian officials have used in the past about Trump but a departure from Rohani's own comparatively measured tone.

"You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks," he added and called the sanctions "outrageous and idiotic."

"The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do," Rohani said.

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The Iranian president and his cabinet run Iran's day-to-day affairs, while Khamenei, in power since 1989, is Iran's ultimate authority. 

"The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded," Rohani said. "Tehran's strategic patience does not mean we have fear."  

Also Tuesday, Iran's foreign ministry said that U.S. measures against the Islamic Republic's supreme leader and other top officials spell "permanent closure" of diplomacy between Tehran and Washington.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei visits Tehran's book fair, April 29, 2019.
Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP

President Donald Trump enacted the new sanctions on Monday against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates. U.S. officials also said they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency on Tuesday quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying that Trump's move means the end of diplomacy between the two countries.

"The fruitless sanctions 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," Mousavi said.

Washington says the measures were taken to discourage Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and supporting militant groups. This comes amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. over Tehran's unraveling nuclear deal with world powers.

Mousavi's statement echoed that of Iran's UN ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, who warned on 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.

The sanctions follow Iran's downing last week of a U.S. surveillance drone, worth over $100 million, over the Strait of Hormuz, an attack that sharply escalated the crisis in the Persian Gulf. After the downing of the drone, Trump pulled back from the brink of retaliatory military strikes but continued his pressure campaign against Iran.

Trump last year re-imposed sanction on Iran after pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear pact that world powers made with Tehran in 2015. Other nations stayed in the deal, which eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

The latest round of sanctions denies Khamenei and senior Iranian military figures access to financial resources and blocks their access to any financial assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.

Trump said the new sanctions are not only in response to the downing of the American drone. The U.S. has blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers this month near the Strait of Hormuz. Citing those episodes and intelligence about other Iranian threats, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there.

The sanctions were announced as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was holding talks in the Middle East 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. Pompeo is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the 2015 nuclear deal.

Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Adviser John 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."

Bolton 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 conflicts across the region, 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," he 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."