Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday mocked President Donald Trump's decision to impose "outrageous and idiotic" new sanctions, saying the effort to target top Iranian authorities reflects confusion at the White House.
Rouhani noted that Western banking restrictions are unlikely to affect Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, saying the 80-year-old leader of the Islamic Revolution isn't getting rich off Western bank accounts. Imposing sanctions on Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif doesn't equate with Trump's stated willingness to negotiate without preconditions, Rouhani said.
“You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks" he would lead, Rouhani said. “The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do.”
Trump fired back on Twitter: "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 sanctions, issued less than a week after Iran shot down a U.S. drone, will block transactions involving any property or other assets Iran's leaders hold in the USA, the White House said. Eight senior commanders of Navy, Aerospace and Ground Forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps also are included.
The sanctions also extend to foreign financial institutions that deal with the U.S., since those institutions could draw sanctions for aiding the targeted Iranians. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the new measures would freeze an additional "billions of dollars" in assets.
"This action is a warning to officials at all levels of the Revolutionary Guard and the rest of the Iranian regime that we will continue to sanction those who export violence, sabotage and terrorism," Mnuchin said.
National security adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that talks with Iran remain possible. Zarif, however, said the economic warfare being waged by the White House will not pressure Iran into talks.
"This may work in a real estate market. It does not work in dealing with Iran," he said.
Iran said it shot down the $100 million drone over its coast. The Pentagon said the incident played out in international waters over the Strait of Hormuz. Trump said he canceled a retaliation strike minutes before it was to take place when military leaders told him about the potential for 150 Iranian deaths.
The drone incident was the latest in a series of events that have heightened U.S.-Iran tensions since Trump opted the U.S. out of a nuclear weapons deal negotiated between Iran and global powers under President Barack Obama. The deal limited Iran’s enrichment of uranium, although the Persian Gulf nation repeatedly claimed its nuclear program was to develop energy, not weapons.
Last month, citing unspecified Iranian threats, the U.S. sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East. Since then, two attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman have drawn sharp warnings from Washington, although Iran has denied involvement in both.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Iran President Hassan Rouhani calls new US sanctions 'outrageous and idiotic'