Iranian president Hassan Rouhani took a page from President Trump’s book and lobbed an inappropriate insult at Washington Tuesday. “The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do,” Rouhani said, according to the AP, in response to new U.S. sanctions against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates.
The sanctions are “outrageous and idiotic,” Rouhani said, and they make little sense given the Trump administration’s attempt to continue diplomatic talks with Tehran. The economic penalties, which target hundreds of millions of dollars controlled by Khamenei, are in response to Iran downing a U.S. surveillance drone last week. Trump had previously approved airstrikes on Iran’s missile systems to retaliate for the destruction of the $110 million drone. But the strikes were called off at the last minute, and replaced by sanctions on Khamenei, who Trump has said is “the one who is ultimately responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime.”
In addition to Rouhani’s insults, Monday’s sanctions have led to “the permanent closure of the road of diplomacy,” a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry said. Iranian state media also called the sanctions a sign of “America’s desperation.”
But Rouhani’s escalating things to personal insults could signal desperation, or at least exasperation, of his own. Or maybe it’s a long-term strategy to achieve peace. After all, in September of 2017, Kim Jong-un called Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and within a year, he was writing him “beautiful” letters and they “fell in love.”
If that’s the goal, it’s a long way off. Trump responded to Rouhani in a tweet Tuesday, warning that a “attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force.”