Iran calls new U.S. sanctions 'outrageous and idiotic'
Trump threatens 'obliteration' should Iran attack 'anything American'
Iran has criticized new U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic's supreme leader and other top officials, saying Tuesday the measures spell the "permanent closure" for diplomacy between the two nations.
For his part, Iran's president described the White House as "afflicted by mental retardation."
President Hassan Rouhani went on to call the sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "outrageous and idiotic," especially as the 80-year-old Shia cleric has no plans to ever travel to the United States.
Trump retorted on Twitter, saying the "ignorant and insulting" Iranian statement "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!"
Asked if he had an exit strategy in the event that war with Iran does break out, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday: "You're not going to need an exit strategy. I don't need exit strategies."
From Israel, Trump's national security adviser John Bolton said talks with the U.S. were still possible and the U.S. is leaving an "open door" for Iran to walk through.
But the comments from Tehran clearly showed its leaders think otherwise, at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran over Iran's nuclear program and its downing of a U.S. military surveillance drone last week.
"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," said Abbas Mousavi, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
The crisis gripping the Middle East is rooted in Trump withdrawing the U.S. a year ago from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal and imposing crippling new sanctions on Tehran. Recently, Iran quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium to be on pace to break one of the deal's terms by next week while also threatening to raise enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 — if Europe doesn't offer a new deal.
France's Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Iran that breaking the 2015 nuclear deal is a "grave error" and the "wrong answer" to pressure from the United States.
He also called the U.S. initiative to build a global coalition to counter Iran "disturbing," and said European diplomats are working to avoid further escalation of the tensions between the U.S. and Iran. France, Germany, the United Kingdom and other European countries are trying to save the 2015 nuclear deal
Sharp comments reminiscent of North Korean barbs
Citing unspecified Iranian threats, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there. All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, 40 years after the Islamic Revolution.
U.S. President Donald Trump enacted the new sanctions on Monday against Khamenei and his associates.
"Iran leadership doesn't understand the words "nice" or "compassion," they never have. Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power," Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
"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 sanctions follow Iran's downing last week of a U.S. surveillance drone, worth over $100 million US, 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.
U.S. officials also said they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, something that drew Rouhani's anger during his televised address on Tuesday.
"You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks," an exasperated Rouhani said and called the sanctions "outrageous and idiotic."
"The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do," Rouhani added.
There was no immediate reaction from Washington early on Tuesday to the remarks from Iran. The sharp comments are reminiscent of North Korea's verbal attacks on Trump before the dramatic change in course and the start of negotiations with Washington. However, in Iran's case, there are no signs Iranian leadership would welcome talks.
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.
Bolton, Pompeo holding meetings abroad
The sanctions were announced as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held 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, John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, 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 Israeli 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 neighbouring 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."
However, Bolton said "all options remain on the table" if Iran exceeds the uranium enrichment limit under the 2015 deal and added it would be "a very serious mistake for Iran to ignore those limits."
Earlier, Russian national security adviser Nikolai Patrushev rebuffed U.S. and Israeli attempts to isolate Iran and urged both countries to show "restraint" toward the Islamic Republic.
Patrushev said attempts to present Iran "as the main threat to regional security" or equate it to international terrorist groups are "not acceptable."
"Iran is contributing a lot to fighting terrorists on the Syrian soil and stabilizing the situation there," he added
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the three countries to agree on expelling foreign forces from neighbouring Syria, and said Israel will not allow Iran to establish a permanent military presence there.
Patrushev called on Israel and the U.S. to encourage a political settlement in Syria.