Iran declares ‘permanent closure’ of diplomacy after latest U.S. sanctions

TEHRAN, Iran — Fresh sanctions levied by the United States drew an intense reaction from Iran on Tuesday, with a senior official saying they spell the “permanent closure” of diplomacy between the two countries.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani mocked President Donald Trump, calling the measures “outrageous and idiotic” and saying the White House is suffering from a “mental illness.”

Trump announced new sanctions on Monday against Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his associates. The measures deny Khamenei and senior Iranian military figures access to financial resources and block their access to any assets they have under U.S. jurisdiction.

On Tuesday, Iran’s President Rouhani said in a televised speech that Trump’s latest sanctions were “hilarious” and a “stupid and ugly act.”

The measures were in a part a response to Iran shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone that it said entered its airspace. The U.S. says it was flying in international airspace.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reads part of a book while visiting Tehran’s book fair in Tehran.Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader / AP file

Rouhani said that incident “raised the nation’s confidence” and showed “we are not scared of the U.S. but we have strategic patience.”

U.S. officials also said they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, a man who worked closely with then-Secretary of State John Kerry during negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from.

By its conclusion, Kerry and Zarif were on first name terms, with the secretary of stating hailing his opposite number as a “patriot” who enjoyed his “mutual respect.” Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, met with Zarif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017.

Trump has said he had been on the verge or ordering airstrikes on Iran following the downing of the drone but called off the operation with minutes to spare. Iran’s defense minister, Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, said the incident showed that “the enemies of Iran are incapable of taking any military action,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported Tuesday.

With tensions high, the U.S. officials such as John Bolton, the national security adviser, say they want to enter into negotiations with Iran. “All that Iran needs to do is walk through that open door,” Bolton told a high-profile security summit in Jerusalem.

But the silence of the Islamic Republic has been “deafening,” according to the U.S. envoy at the United Nations, Jonathan Cohen.

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Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, responded that the sanctions, adding to other measures already squeezing his country’s economy, made negotiations impossible under the current circumstances.

The sanctions mean “the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy with the desperate government of the United States,” Mousavi said in a tweet.

Mousavi’s statement echoed that of Iran’s U.N. ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, who warned 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.

For its part, Russia says it is concerned about the rising tensions. On Tuesday, its Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the new U.S. sanctions a “very bad scenario,” according to the state-run Tass news agency, and he likened Washington’s actions to its justification in the run-up to the Iraq War in 2003.

“We all remember how it ended,” Lavrov said.

Washington says the measures were taken to discourage Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and supporting militant groups.

Tensions have been rising against the backdrop of the unraveling of the Iran nuclear deal, which was agreed by world powers in 2015 but abandoned by Washington last year.

Iran was abiding by the deal, which eased sanctions in exchange for curbing its nuclear program. Its other signatories have stuck with it, but Trump withdrew saying its terms were too soft.

In protest at the U.S. walking away, Iran said that later this week it will breach the uranium limit it agreed with world powers four years ago. Even though the U.S. has withdrawn from that agreement, it says it still expects Iran to abide by its terms, and Bolton said Tuesday that “all options remain on the table” if Iran reneges.

Trump said the new sanctions are also in response for attacks on two oil tankers this month near the Strait of Hormuz. Washington blames Iran, which in turn has denied any involvement.

Citing those episodes and intelligence about other Iranian threats, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf region and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there.

The sanctions were announced as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was holding talks in the Middle East with officials in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Ali Arouzi reported from Tehran, and Alexander Smith reported from London.

Associated Press contributed.

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