After calling off a plan for a missile strike against Iran at the last minute, on Monday Donald Trump imposed fresh sanctions on the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, along with eight Iranian military commanders and Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and top negotiator on a nuclear-containment deal. And while Iranian leadership is presumably happy with Trump’s decision not to go through with his threat to kill up to 150 people, it’s not thrilled about the latest move!
In a live televised address, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani responded to the aggression by saying that “no wise person would take such an action,” that “the White House is stricken by a mental (or intellectual) disability,” and that the sanctions themselves are “outrageous and idiotic.” Noting Zarif’s crucial role in nuclear talks, a clearly exasperated Rouhani wondered aloud, “You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?”
Other leaders were similarly baffled. Zarif himself said the latest sanctions were an obvious indication that the administration’s hawks “thirst for war,” while Abbas Mousavi, a foreign ministry spokesman, asked reporters, “Are there really any sanctions that the U.S. hasn’t imposed against our country and people in the past 40 years? And what did it achieve?” Hassan Soleimani, the editor in chief of the Revolutionary Guards’ Mashregh News Agency, told the New York Times, “Sanctions announced today officially closed all the windows and doors for U.S. and Iran talks. If Trump was hoping for negotiations with Iran, he can now only dream about it,” saying that cutting off Zarif, the most moderate voice in Iran’s government, will likely embolden the Revolutionary Guards.
While Mousavi insisted that the U.S. government is “destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security,” Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton, unsurprisingly had a different point of view. “The president has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program, its ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism, and other malign behavior worldwide,” Bolton said. “All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door.” (Trump himself dubbed the sanctions “a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions,” which included shooting down a U.S. drone.) Trump, too, took issue with Iran’s response, tweeting on Tuesday morning that “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!”
Tensions in the Gulf have, of course, been mounting since Trump’s decision to pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. While it’s unclear what comes next, Rouhani’s crack at the president’s intelligence is particularly concerning, given Trump’s obsession with his allegedly off-the-charts I.Q., and his belief that he is a “extremely stable genius.”
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