Iran says new US sanctions mean 'permanent closure' of path to diplomacy

Chris Baynes

New US sanctions targeting Iran‘s supreme leader and other senior officials mean the permanent closure of diplomatic channels between Tehran and Washington, the Middle Eastern country’s government has said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi warned the American government was “destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security”.

His comments on Tuesday came after US president Donald Trump signed an executive order to deny supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his office, and eight Revolutionary Guard commanders access to financial resources.

Washington also plans to impose similar sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later this week.

Mr Trump said the “hard-hitting” sanctions, which came following weeks of escalating tensions between the two countries, were “a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative action”.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Mousavi said: “Imposing useless sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader and the commander of Iran’s diplomacy is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy

“Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security”.

His statement echoed that of Iran’s UN ambassador, Majid Takht Ravanchi, who warned on Monday that the situation in the Persian Gulf was “very dangerous” and that talks with the US were impossible in the face of escalating sanctions and intimidation.

US national security adviser John Bolton insisted Washington was still willing to talk to Tehran.

“The president has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons programme, its ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism and other malign behaviour worldwide,” he said. “All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door.”

But Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said the new sanctions were “outrageous and idiotic”.

“The White House actions mean it is mentally retarded,” he added. “You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?”

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said the White House was “mentally retarded” (AP)

Tensions have been mounting in the Gulf since Mr Trump withdrew the US from a 2015 multilateral deal in which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

Those tensions culminated in the shooting down of a US drone last week. The US president said he ordered reprisal air strikes but called them off at the last minute.

Mr Trump said the new sanctions were not only in response to the downing of the American drone. The US has also blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers this month near the Strait of Hormuz.

The American government claimed the measures effectively freeze billions of dollars worth of Iran assets, but experts said the true impact was likely to be limited.

Richard Johnson, the US state department’s former deputy leader co-ordinator of the Iran nuclear deal, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Frankly I doubt that there’s many international companies doing business with these organisations, so I don’t think the sanctions will have a really substantive effect on Iran’s economy.

“I do think it’s much more symbolic than it is substantive.”