Iran’s supreme leader said Wednesday that Iranians will not budge or change their stand following new U.S. sanctions targeting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his associates, the latest in a torrent of sharp verbal responses from Tehran in the wake of the measures.
President Donald Trump enacted the new sanctions against Khamenei and others on Monday and U.S. officials also said they plan sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The sanctions followed Iran’s downing last week of a U.S. surveillance drone, worth over $100 million, over the Strait of Hormuz, sharply escalating the crisis.
The top Iranian cleric’s website quoted Khamenei as calling the Trump administration “the most sinister” U.S. government, adding that Washington’s calls for negotiation with Iran are deceitful and amount to “obvious cruelty.”
“The most hated figures of such an administration accuse and insult the Iranian nation,” Khamenei said. “The Iranian nation will not budge and will not withdraw because of the insults.”
The crisis gripping the Middle East stems from Trump’s withdrawal of the United States a year ago from the nuclear deal between Iran and other world powers and then 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 European countries still abiding by the accord don’t offer a new deal.
Iran warned on Tuesday that the new U.S. sanctions targeting Khamenei and other officials meant “closing the doors of diplomacy” between Tehran and Washington. President Hassan Rouhani derided the White House as being “afflicted by mental retardation.”
Trump called that a “very ignorant and insulting statement,” tweeting that an Iranian attack on any U.S. interest will be met with “great and overwhelming force … overwhelming will mean obliteration.” His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the Iranian statement was “immature.”
After the downing of the U.S. drone last week, Trump pulled back from the brink of retaliatory military strikes but continued his pressure campaign against Iran.