TEHRAN, Iran — (AP) — Iran on Tuesday sharply criticized new U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic's supreme leader and other top officials, saying the measures spell the "permanent closure" for diplomacy between the two nations. Iran's president described the White House as "afflicted by mental retardation."
President Hassan Rouhani went on to call the sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "outrageous and idiotic," especially as the 80-year-old Shiite cleric has no plans to ever travel to the United States.
From Israel, Trump's national security adviser John Bolton said talks with the U.S. were still possible and that the U.S. is leaving an "open door" for Iran to walk through.
But the comments from Tehran clearly show its leaders think otherwise at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran over its nuclear program and Iran's downing of a U.S. military surveillance drone last week.
"The fruitless sanctions on Iran's leadership and the chief of Iranian diplomacy mean the permanent closure of the road of diplomacy with the frustrated U.S. administration," said Abbas Mousavi, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
The crisis gripping the Middle East is rooted in President Donald Trump's withdrawal of the U.S. a year ago from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal and imposing crippling new sanctions on Tehran. Recently, Iran quadrupled its production of low-enriched uranium to be on pace to break one of the deal's terms by Thursday while also threatening to raise enrichment closer to weapons-grade levels on July 7 — if Europe doesn't offer a new deal.
Citing unspecified Iranian threats, the U.S. has sent an aircraft carrier to the Middle East and deployed additional troops alongside the tens of thousands already there. All this has raised fears that a miscalculation or further rise in tensions could push the U.S. and Iran into an open conflict, 40 years after the Islamic Revolution.
Trump enacted the new sanctions on Monday against Khamenei and his associates.