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Iran dismisses new US sanctions, calls White House 'retarded'

In Summary

• Rouhani said sanctions against Khamenei would fail because he had no assets abroad.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Image: REUTERS

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani dismissed new US sanctions on Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and described the White House as "mentally retarded", an insult Iran has used in the past about President Donald Trump.

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

"The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded," he said "Tehran's strategic patience does not mean we have fear." 

Trump targeted Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top Iranian officials with sanctions on Monday, taking a dramatic, unprecedented step to increase pressure on Iran after Tehran’s downing of an unmanned American drone.

With tensions running high between the two countries, Trump signed an executive order imposing the sanctions, which U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said would lock billions of dollars more in Iranian assets.

Trump told reporters the sanctions were in part a response to last week’s downing of a U.S. drone by Iran, but would have happened anyway. He said Khamenei was ultimately responsible for what Trump called “the hostile conduct of the regime” in the Middle East.

Trump said the sanctions “will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader’s office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support.”

John Smith, who was director of the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before joining a law firm last year, said the United States had never targeted an Iranian head of state before and that was a sign Trump was getting personal.