Iranian officials warned Tuesday that U.S. President Donald Trump’s new economic sanctions targeting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and top diplomat Javad Zarif could vanquish the possibility of peaceful negotiations and move the two nations closer to an unnecessary military conflict.
“Imposing useless sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader and the commander of Iran’s diplomacy is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy,” said Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry. “Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security.”
In a televised speech on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Trump’s economic penalties “outrageous and idiotic” and pointed to sanctions against Zarif as evidence that the White House is entirely uninterested in diplomacy.
“You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?” Rouhani said.
The Trump administration’s decision to escalate economic warfare against Iran came after weeks of soaring tensions, which nearly resulted in an all-out military conflict last week after President Donald Trump approved airstrikes against several Iranian targets.
Trump called off the strikes at the last minute, but observers said the close brush with war underscored the need for immediate deescalation and diplomacy — not more aggressive posturing and sanctions.
After Trump chose the latter course on Monday, Zarif — who helped lead negotiations of the nuclear accord that the U.S. president violated last year — tweeted, “it’s now clear that the B-Team is not concerned with U.S. interests — they despise diplomacy, and thirst for war.”
The “B-Team” is Zarif’s name for a group of officials comprised of U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking at a trilateral security summit with Russian and Israeli representatives in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Bolton — who reportedly pushed for the airstrikes against Iran that Trump canceled — insisted that the U.S. president “has held the door open to real negotiations.”
But, as Common Dreams reported Monday, observers and critics warned that Trump’s belligerent actions against Iran throughout his presidency — including the violation of the nuclear accord — and his new economic sanctions are “driving us further towards the brink of a completely avoidable crisis.”
“Donald Trump needs to put his ego aside and abandon the ‘maximum pressure’ strategy that John Bolton and [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo have foisted on the world,” Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said in a statement on Monday.
“The strategy of maximum pressure,” said Abdi, “is not designed to induce negotiations, but rather to push Iran away from the negotiating table while triggering further Iranian provocations that could serve as a pretext for war.”