WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened Iran with “great and overwhelming force” should it strike again against “anything American,” after Iran's leaders dismissed the latest round of Trump administration sanctions as “idiotic” and described Trump as mentally unfit.
“Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words ‘nice' or 'compassion,’ they never have,” Trump tweeted shortly after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took aim at Trump in an speech delivered on Iranian state television.
Trump, who last week called off a retaliatory airstrike against Iran after Iran shot down an American surveillance drone, said on Twitter: “Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone.”
The president, who aborted the planned attack on Iran last Friday citing his concern over the number of expected Iranian casualties, announced Monday his administration would impose economic sanctions against Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other top officials that limit their access to international banks and foreign financial institutions.
Iran’s president responded by calling the sanctions “outrageous and idiotic,” claiming the sanctions would have little impact on Khamenei, who has not traveled abroad in nearly three decades, and who Rouhani claimed did not have financial assets outside of Iran.
“The White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do,” Rouhani said, according to a translation of his speech reported by The Associated Press.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi in a tweet said the sanctions were “closing the doors of diplomacy” between the two nations.
“The useless sanctioning of Islamic Revolution Supreme Leader and the commander of Iranian diplomacy means closing the doors of diplomacy by the U.S.′ desperate administration,” Mousavi tweeted. “Trump’s government is annihilating all the established international mechanisms for keeping peace and security in the world.”
Trump responded by ramping up his rhetoric against Iran on Twitter.
“Iran’s very ignorant and insulting statement, put out today, only shows that they do not understand reality. Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,” Trump tweeted, adding that Iran was no longer dealing with former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who helped broker the multinational Iran Nuclear Deal that Trump withdrew from last year over the protests of allied nations.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking to reporters while on a diplomatic trip to the United Arab Emirates, said he had not heard Rouhani’s remarks, but said they sounded “a bit immature and childlike.”
“Know that the United States will remain steadfast in undertaking the actions that the president laid out in this strategy to create stability throughout the Middle East, which includes the campaign we have, the economic campaign, the pressure campaign that we have on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.
The fiery barbs exchanged between Washington and Tehran come amid increasing hostility in the Middle East as the United States continues to blame Iran for recent attacks on four oil tankers along the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has denied those attacks, but declared it was behind the missile strike on an unmanned U.S. military drone last week.
In the past month, Iran has said it has ramped up its production of enriched uranium and has threatened to break the terms of the existing Iran Nuclear Deal, which limits enriched uranium production, if the other European nations belonging to the accord do not deliver a new agreement.