Iran President Hassan Rouhani takes on Trump in war of words

June 26, 2019

Iran escalated its verbal fusillade against the White House this week, with its president, Hassan Rouhani, even alleging that U.S. President Donald Trump suffers from a mental disability.

“They have become stricken with mental incapability. The White House has become stricken with mental disability,” reads a literal translation of Rouhani’s remarks. Some outlets reported that the Iranian leader alleged the Trump administration is “mentally retarded.”

The insult comes after the Islamic Republic was hit by the White House with a fresh round of economic sanctions, which Rouhani called “outrageous and idiotic.”

War of words

Washington implemented the latest round of economic controls after an “unprovoked attack” from Iran targeting a U.S. spy drone flying in international airspace. Iran’s theocratic regime insists that the $130 million unmanned aircraft was flying over its territorial waters when it was shot down by a locally manufactured “3 Khordad” surface-to-air missile.

“I’ll be signing an executive order imposing hard-hitting sanctions on the supreme leader of Iran on the office of the supreme leader of Iran and many others,” President Trump said from the Oval Office Monday evening. “Today’s action follows a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks, including shooting down of U.S. drones.”

For his part, Rouhani alleged at a session of ministers, which was broadcast on television, that the Trump administration is running out of options.

Going after the big fish

The new sanctions target top Iranian government officials and prevent them from using international banking institutions or other financial vehicles established by European nations. However, Rouhani warned that this financial counterattack would fail because Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini does not own any foreign assets.

“Iranian officials most likely do not keep substantial assets in international banks, if any at all, or use those institutions for transactions, and any additional pressure from the new sanctions is likely to be minimal,” wrote Edward Wong of The New York Times.

But U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin believes that the latest sanctions will be “highly-effective locking up the Iranian economy.” He expects “literally billions of dollars more of assets” to be affected.

Closing the door to diplomacy

The administration also added Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s top foreign minister, to the list of sanction Iranian officials. Rouhani was furious in response, asking: “You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?”

Rouhani’s remarks come shortly after those of Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, who promised that the new sanctions would permanently close the door on future negotiations. Mousavi tweeted: “Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security.” 

However, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton insists that the U.S. has “held the door open to real negotiations” and that “in response, Iran’s silence has been deafening.”

“We do not seek conflict with Iran or any other country,” Trump said during his Oval Office address. “I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us — a lot of restraint — and that doesn’t mean we’re going to show it in the future. But, I felt that we want to give this a chance, give it a good chance, because I think Iran potentially has a phenomenal future.”

The Trump administration canceled a 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and several world powers last year, reasserting crushing sanctions that target the Islamic Republic’s oil export industry — the lifeblood of the nation’s economy. The White House is waiting to see if the economic controls executed in April and designed to clamp down on Iranian oil exports will force the regime to the negotiating table.

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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Jewish News Syndicate.