Iran's Rouhani: US sanctions on Khamenei 'idiotic and outrageous'

Iran's Rouhani: US sanctions on Khamenei 'idiotic and outrageous'

President says Iran's strategic patience does not mean the country fears the United States.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed new sanctions the United States imposed on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as "outrageous and idiotic" and described the White House as "mentally retarded".

In a speech broadcast live on Iranian state television on Tuesday, Rouhani said sanctions against Khamenei would fail because he had no assets abroad and described the latest round of sanctions as a sign of US desperation.

"The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded," Rouhani said, adding that Tehran's "strategic patience" should not be mistaken for fear.

Iranian officials have used this insult in the past about US President Donald Trump but it was a departure from Rouhani's own comparatively measured tone.

Trump targeted Khamenei and other top Iranian officials with sanctions on Monday, in a bid to increase pressure on Iran after it downed an unmanned US drone last week.

The targets of the new sanctions include senior military figures in Iran, whose access to any financial assets under US jurisdiction will now be blocked.

Washington said it will also impose sanctions on Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, this week.

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

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that Washington was prepared to enter talks with Iran "with no preconditions".

Foreign ministry remarks

Rouhani's remarks come after the Iranian foreign ministry said on Tuesday that the new US sanctions imposed on Iran permanently closed the path to diplomacy between Tehran and Washington.

"Imposing useless sanctions on Iran's Supreme Leader and the commander of Iran's diplomacy (Zarif) is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a tweet.

"Trump's desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security."

However, US National Security Adviser John Bolton has said that Trump is open to negotiations and "all that Iran needs to do is walk through that open door".

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem on Tuesday, he said he believes pressure imposed on Iran through sanctions will lead it to the negotiation table.

"They'll either get the point or ... we will simply enhance the maximum pressure campaign further".

"It will, I think, be the combination of sanctions and other pressure that does bring Iran to the table," the long time Iran hawk said.

However, he added that "all options remain on the table" if Iran exceeds the uranium enrichment limit under a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Tehran had previously warned it would pass the limit this week.

Last year, Trump pulled out of the nuclear accord between Iran and world powers that curbed the Islamic Republic's nuclear weapons programme in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Relations in the Gulf region have worsened significantly since then.

A year after the US withdrawal from the deal, Iran said in May it would would reduce compliance with some elements of the nuclear agreement, if European signatories to the deal did not protect Iran's oil and banking sectors from reimposed US sanctions.

Washington has since imposed new sanctions.

'Khamenei won't be affected'

Al Jazeera's Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said the US decision to sanction the supreme leader would likely not have much effect.

"Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has not left Iran in over 30 years since he was president in 1989. The last time he left Iran was on a state visit to China in April 1989," she said, adding that the announcement that Zarif would be sanctioned had come as a surprise to Iran.

"Zarif is a career diplomat who lived in the US. He was at the UN for many years. He is known as the face of the Islamic Republic on the international stage," Jabbari said.

Tensions have escalated in the region in recent weeks following a series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

The US and its regional allies - Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) - have blamed Iran for the attacks - a charge Tehran has denied as "baseless".

The downing of the US surveillance drone last week almost brought the two foes to the brink of war, with Trump saying he initially approved attacks on Iran in retaliation for the drone shootdown but later pulled back.

Tehran said the drone violated its airspace but Washington insisted it was flying over international waters.

Trump has said he is not seeking war with Iran, as he dispatched his top diplomats - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton - to the Middle East to shore up support against Iran.

 

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