Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during National Nuclear Day, Tehran, April 9, 2019
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has called the Trump Administration “mentally disabled” with its expansion of comprehensive sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
In a televised statement on Tuesday, Rouhani said:
Today, the Americans have become desperate and confused. This has made them take unusual measures and talk nonsense….
Tehran’s strategic patience does not mean that we are afraid. We do not fear America, and have shown restraint so far.
On Monday, after U-turning last week over military strikes inside Iran, Donald Trump signed an Executive Order imposing sanctions on the Supreme Leader and other senior Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The measures are largely symbolic, as the US has already cut off Iran from the global financial system and the regime’s officials do not have substantial holdings in international banks, where assets have long been at risk of being frozen.
Rouhani mocked the “outrageous and idiotic” sanctions:
Iran’s Leader is not like those of other countries, who have billions in an account abroad so you can sanction it, seize it or block it. To sanction him for what? Not to travel to America?
He said of measures against Foreign Minister Zarif, “You call for negotiations. If you are telling the truth, why are you simultaneously seeking to sanction our foreign minister, too? It is obvious that you are lying.”
“Decisive Response” v. US Violation of Iranian Space
Later speaking by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron, Rouhani said, “We have always shown our commitment to regional security and stability, and will work towards this aim.”
However, he warned, “If the Americans intend to intrude Iran’s airspace again, Iranian armed forces are ready to confront them with a decisive response.”
Tensions have risen this month because of explosions damaging two tankers in the Gulf of Oman and Iran’s downing of a US drone — claiming it was over Iranian territorial waters — last Thursday.
Trump initially approved US airstrikes in response, but quickly vetoed the operations. Instead, amid his mixed and sometimes contradictory statements, the White House moved towards the additional, symbolic sanctions.
Rouhani repeated Iran’s declaration that it will suspend some provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal — from which the US withdrew in May 2018 — if Europe does not establish economic links with Tehran to bypass American sanctions.
“If Iran’s interests under the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] are not met, we will suspend our commitments step by step,” he told Macron.
In early February, the European Union launched a Special Purpose Vehicle for non-dollar trade in Iranian oil and other commodities and goods. However, Tehran rejected the mechanism, known as INSTEX, because it was limited and because of the EU’s “humiliating conditions”, such as Europe’s concern about Iran’s missile program, activities in the Middle East, and alleged involvement in assassination and bomb plots in Europe.
Iranian State media said Macron called for avoiding a “dangerous escalation” in the region.
The Elysee Palace declined to comment.