Monday, 30th October 2017

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Trump ‘obliteration’ threat to Iran

'Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force,' the President tweeted

By New York Times News Service and Reuters in New York
  • Published 26.06.19, 1:07 AM
  • Updated 26.06.19, 1:07 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Donald Trump AP photo

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said on Tuesday that the White House had a “mental handicap” and vowed that Tehran would not be intimidated by American sanctions — drawing a blistering threat of “obliteration” from US President Donald Trump.

“Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,” Trump tweeted, calling Rouhani’s comments “ignorant and insulting”.

“Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words ‘nice’ or ‘compassion,’ they never have,” Trump continued. “Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world.”

Trump ordered new sanctions this week that are intended to pressure Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other senior Iranian officials this week. But on Tuesday, Rouhani dismissed the new penalties as pointless and vowed that Iran would not bow to American demands.

“Today, the Americans have become desperate and confused,” Rouhani said, speaking in a televised address. “This has made them take unusual measures and talk nonsense.”

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, separately accused Iran of being “a source of belligerence and aggression” across West Asia.

Bolton, speaking at a meeting in Jerusalem with his Russian and Israeli counterparts, insisted that the Trump administration was ready to negotiate with Tehran to alleviate the tensions. But both sides appeared unwilling to bend from their demands.

The caustic tone of Rouhani’s remarks, in particular, further diminished the already remote prospects of talks to reach some accommodation.

Other Iranian officials have described the White House as mentally handicapped, but Rouhani’s slinging of insults was significant because, in the context of the Iranian political system, he has been regarded as a moderate relatively open to negotiations with Washington.

The US wants Iran to commit to a long list of new restrictions, including limits on any potential development of a nuclear weapon. Iran is refusing to hold talks until Washington lifts the economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Instead, Iran has said it will take steps that will soon exceed limits set in the 2015 nuclear deal that it reached with the US, Russia, China and several European nations.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo told reporters in Kabul that he had not heard Rouhani’s remarks because he had been in meetings with Afghan officials all day. But he insisted that Trump would stick with the sanctions campaign.

Tehran has said it still aims to comply with the nuclear deal, but cannot do so indefinitely unless it receives some benefits. It has given European countries until July 8 to find a way to shield its economy from US sanctions, or else it will enrich uranium to higher levels banned under the deal to help ensure no development of a nuclear weapon results.

But with little sign of European powers meeting Iran's demand, deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi signalled on Tuesday there was no longer any point in Tehran honouring the deal without reciprocation, according to Fars news agency.

President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone to Rouhani on Tuesday as part of a French initiative to prevent an escalation of tensions in West Asia, Macron’s office said.

New press secretary

Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s loyal and sometimes combative communications director, will replace Sarah Huckabee Sanders as White House press secretary.