Iran warned Tuesday that new U.S. sanctions targeting its supreme leader and other top officials meant “closing the doors of diplomacy” between Tehran and Washington amid heightened tensions, even as President Hassan Rouhani derided the White House as being “afflicted by mental retardation.”
President Donald Trump called that a “very ignorant and insulting statement,” tweeting that an Iranian attack on any U.S. interest will be met with “great and overwhelming force … overwhelming will mean obliteration.” His secretary of state said the Iranian statement was “immature.”
The sharp remarks from Tehran shows the pressure that the nation’s Shiite theocracy and its 80 million people feel over the maximalist campaign of sanctions by the Trump administration. From Israel, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Iran could walk through an “open door” to talks with America but also warned that “all options remain on the table” if Tehran makes good on its promise to begin breaking one limit from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The verbal volleys recalled North Korea’s statements about Trump before the dramatic change in course and the start of negotiations with Washington. In 2017, state media quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling Trump “the mentally deranged U.S. dotard.”
However, there are no signs the Iranian leadership would welcome talks.
WATCH: What latest round of U.S. sanctions will mean for Iran
“The useless sanctioning of Islamic Revolution Supreme Leader (Khamenei) and the commander of Iranian diplomacy means closing the doors of diplomacy by the U.S.′ desperate administration,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted. “Trump’s government is annihilating all the established international mechanisms for keeping peace and security in the world.”
Trump enacted the new sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates on Monday.
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 Tuesday.
“You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks,” an exasperated Rouhani said. He called the sanctions against Khamenei “outrageous and idiotic,” especially since the 80-year-old Shiite cleric has no plans to travel to the United States. “The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do,” he added in Farsi, using a term similarly as offensive in English.
Pompeo held talks Monday 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. He is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the nuclear deal with Iran.
Meanwhile, Bolton 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.” He was meeting with his Russian and Israel counterparts in a first-of-its-kind trilateral security summit in Jerusalem that was focused on Iranian involvement in regional conflicts, particularly in neighboring 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,” Bolton 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.”
But only hours later, Bolton told a news conference that “all options remain on the table” if Iran goes over the limit for its low-enriched uranium stockpile as planned by Thursday.
“It would not be in their interest to do it but they have done a lot of things recently that are not in their interest,” Bolton said.
Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Aron Heller in Jerusalem contributed.