Iran’s Rouhani: US sanctions on Khamenei ‘idiotic and outrageous’

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ROUHANI

Iran’s Rouhani: US sanctions on Khamenei ‘idiotic and outrageous’

President says Iran’s strategic patience does not mean the country fears the United States. MORE ON IRAN

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed new sanctions the United States imposed on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as “outrageous and idiotic” and described the White House as “mentally retarded”.

In a speech broadcast live on Iranian state television on Tuesday, Rouhani said sanctions against Khamenei would fail because he had no assets abroad and described the latest round of measures as a sign of US desperation.

“The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded,” Rouhani said, adding that Tehran’s “strategic patience” should not be mistaken for fear.

Iranian officials have used this insult in the past about US President Donald Trump, but it was a departure from Rouhani’s own comparatively measured tone.

Trump targeted Khamenei and other top Iranian officials with sanctions on Monday, in a bid to increase pressure on Iran after it downed an unmanned US drone last week.

Iran's Rouhani: US sanctions on Khamenei 'idiotic and outrageous'

Iranian President Rouhani described the latest round of sanctions as a sign of US desperation [File: Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen/Reuters]

Trump says he is not ‘looking for war’ as he prods Iran for talks

The targets of the new sanctions include senior military figures in Iran, whose access to any financial assets under US jurisdiction will now be blocked.

Washington also said it will also impose sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, this week. The moves came a day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that Washington was prepared to enter talks with Iran “with no preconditions”.

Rouhani dismissed Pompeo’s offer, saying: “You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks.” He went on to call the new US sanctions “outrageous and idiotic”.

‘All options on table’

The crisis gripping the Middle East stems from Trump’s decision last year to abandon an international accord between Iran and six world powers that offered Tehran relief from global sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear programme.

After exiting the 2015 deal, Trump reimposed and extended sanctions on Iran, saying the “maximum pressure” campaign was aimed at forcing Tehran to negotiate a new deal that also addressed its ballistic missiles programme and support for regional armed groups.

But Iran says there is no point negotiating with Washington when it has abandoned a deal that was already reached. And on Tuesday, the country’s foreign ministry said the new US sanctions permanently closed the path to diplomacy between Tehran and Washington.

“Imposing useless sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader and the commander of Iran’s diplomacy [Zarif] is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a tweet.

“Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security.”

A year after the US exit, Iran said it would would reduce compliance with some elements of the nuclear agreement, and gave Europe, China and Russia a two-month ultimatum to help Iran circumvent US sanctions and sell its oil.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said on Tuesday Iran will “resolutely” abandon more commitments under the nuclear deal at the end of that deadline.

“As of July 7, Iran will forcefully take the second step of reducing its commitments” to the nuclear deal, Shamkhani was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

This was so “countries who interpreted Iran’s ‘patience’ with weakness and inaction realise that Iran’s answer to the American drone’s violation of its airspace will be no different than its reaction to devious political efforts to limit Iranian people’s absolute rights,” he added.

Shamkhani slammed Europe’s “political insolence” for expecting Iran to continue its commitments without them fulfilling their end of the deal and said it showed a “lack of will” to face the US.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton, speaking in Israel, said that Trump was open to negotiations and “all that Iran needs to do is walk through that open door”.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Bolton said he believes pressure imposed on Iran through sanctions will lead it to the negotiating table. “They’ll either get the point or … we will simply enhance the maximum pressure campaign further”.

“It will, I think, be the combination of sanctions and other pressure that does bring Iran to the table,” the long time Iran hawk said.

However, he added that “all options remain on the table” if Iran exceeds the uraniumenrichment limit under the nuclear deal.  Tehran had previously warned it would pass the 300kg stockpile limit this week.

‘Khamenei won’t be affected’

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Tehran, said the US decision to sanction the supreme leader would likely not have much effect.

“Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has not left Iran in over 30 years since he was president in 1989. The last time he left Iran was on a state visit to China in April 1989,” she said, adding that the announcement that Zarif would be sanctioned had come as a surprise to Iran.

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“Zarif is a career diplomat who lived in the US. He was at the UN for many years. He is known as the face of the Islamic Republic on the international stage,” Jabbari said.

Tensions have escalated in the region in recent weeks following a series of attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf.

The US and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) – have blamed Iran for the attacks – a charge Tehran has denied as “baseless”.

The downing of the US surveillance drone last week almost brought the two foes to the brink of war, with Trump saying he initially approved attacks on Iran in retaliation for the drone shootdown but later pulled back.

Tehran said the drone violated its airspace but Washington insisted it was flying over international waters.

Trump has said he is not seeking war with Iran, as he dispatched his top diplomats – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton – to the Middle East to shore up support against Iran.

Iran FM Zarif: US sanctions are 'economic terrorism'

TALK TO AL JAZEERA

Iran FM Zarif: US sanctions are ‘economic terrorism’

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Kushner: Arab Peace Initiative no basis for Israel-Palestine deal

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Jared Kushner says Bahrain meeting will be a success despite a Palestinian boycott.

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said it will not be possible to solve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a deal “along the lines of the Arab Peace Initiative”.

Kushner made the comments during an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera shortly before his departure for a Washington-sponsored “workshop” in Bahrain‘s capital, Manama, where officials and businesspeople from the United States, Israel, and several Arab states will discuss on Tuesday and Wednesday the economic part of the long-delayed US Middle East peace plan.

“I think we all have to recognise that if there ever is a deal, it’s not going to be along the lines of the Arab peace initiative,” said Kushner, who is also US President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law and has been tasked by him to lead the Middle East peace process.

“It will be somewhere between the Arab peace initiative and between the Israeli position,” he added.

Responding to whether a two-state solution was still viable given the recent comments by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman about Israel retaining the right to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, Kushner called the Arab Peace Initiative “a great effort” but added that “if that was where a deal was going to be made, a deal would have been made a long time ago”.

The two-state solution closely corroborates the Arab Peace Initiative, which was proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002. The initiative called for normalised relations between Israel and other Arab states in exchange for a full withdrawal by Israel from lands it occupied in the 1967 war, including the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The initiative was re-endorsed over the years by the Arab League but never implemented, as Israel continued its occupation and settlement expansion in the West Bank.

Manama ‘workshop’

Referring to the two-day conference beginning in Manama on Tuesday, Kushner said he believed the event would be a success despite the boycott by the Palestinian leadership, citing the presence of delegates from regional countries and a large number of international investors.

“We’ve been working very carefully on a very detailed proposal for what we think can help bring this conflict, which has been stuck, forward and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to put that out soon and hopefully parties will be responsible, they’ll engage on it and they’ll try to move forward.”

Palestinian officials say the gathering circumvents a political settlement based on a two-state solution, and is an ill-fated attempt by the US administration to “liquidate” the Palestinian cause.

Kushner also defended Trump’s decision in late 2017 to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Israel is a sovereign nation; a sovereign nation has the right to determine where their capital is and America has the right to recognise the decision of another sovereign nation, which is what we chose to do,” he said, adding that the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem should not affect final-status negotiations.

His full interview will be broadcast on Tuesday.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

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