Fresh on the heels of “hard-hitting” new sanctions against its leader and other top government officials, Iran says a path to a diplomatic solution with the U.S. is now closed, raising tensions in the Middle East even further.
On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump hit Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and eight other senior military officials with sanctions, cutting them off from access to financial resources after an American Global Hawk drone was shot down over or near Iran.
“The futile sanctions against the Iranian leader and the country’s chief diplomat mean the permanent closure of the diplomatic path with the government of the United States,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, according to Bloomberg. “The Trump government is in the process of destroying all the established international mechanisms for maintaining global peace and security.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also blasted the sanctions in a televised address as “outrageous and idiotic” because he doesn’t have any assets abroad.
“The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded,” Rouhani said. “Tehran’s strategic patience does not mean we have fear.
“You call for negotiations. If you are telling the truth, why are you simultaneously seeking to sanction our foreign minister?”
Trump took to Twitter to make his case on Tuesday morning, blasting the statements as “very ignorant and insulting.”
“Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words ‘nice’ or ‘compassion,’ they never have. Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone,” Trump tweeted. “The wonderful Iranian people are suffering, and for no reason at all. Their leadership spends all of its money on Terror, and little on anything else.
“The U.S. has not forgotten Iran’s use of IED’s & EFP’s (bombs), which killed 2000 Americans, and wounded many more,” he continued. “Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration. No more John Kerry & Obama!”
The latest dust-up comes after Trump canceled a retaliatory airstrike against Iran for shooting down the drone at the last minute last week. Iran says the drone was flying over its territory while the U.S. says it was over international waters.
The Trump administration also blames Tehran for two recent attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most critical oil waterways.
The new sanctions are aimed at blocking the country’s leadership from access to financial resources, including the U.S. financial system and access to any assets in the United States.
It’s unclear how effective the latest sanctions will be in reference to Rouhani’s assets abroad, which he said he doesn’t have any. Former U.S. diplomat Amos Hochstein, who served as special envoy for international energy affairs, told CNBC “the Ayatollah and most of the people closest to him don’t really have bank accounts in their names … in Europe or outside of Iran.”
Hochstein also said the Trump administration needs to make clear what its goals are toward Iran outside of coming back to the negotiating table, which Trump has said previously.
“There has to be some articulation of real goals, real lampposts that Iran can achieve or commit to, that would allow us to scale some of these back,” Hochstein said.