US President Donald Trump has threatened Iran with “obliteration” if the country were to strike American targets, a day after his administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader amid mounting tensions between Washington and Tehran.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Trump declared that “any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force”.
“In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,” he said.
His comments come after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the White House “mentally retarded” and its actions “outrageous” and “idiotic”, vowing that Tehran would not back down from US sanctions.
“Today, the Americans have become desperate and confused,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on Iranian television. “This has made them take unusual measures and talk nonsense.”
In his tweets, Trump called Rouhani’s comments “very ignorant and insulting”, adding that the statement shows Iran does not “understand reality”.
On Monday, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a move Washington billed as retaliation for Tehran’s shooting down of an unmanned US drone last week.
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters that day that Washington is also preparing sanctions against Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, a key architect of the Obama administration’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
The new measures also come days after Trump authorised, then called off, military strikes against Iranian targets in response to the attack on the US drone.
Tehran has blamed Washington for that incident, however, saying that the unmanned drone had violated its airspace while operating illegally in stealth mode.
But US officials have insisted that the drone was wrongly shot down over international waters.
“I think a lot of restraint has been shown by us – a lot of restraint – and that doesn’t mean we’re going to show it in the future,” Trump said on Twitter at the time.
Meanwhile, White House national security adviser John Bolton, speaking at a summit meeting in Jerusalem with his Russian and Israeli counterparts on Tuesday, urged Iran to step back from its “malign behaviour”.
Bolton, a hawkish Trump administration official who has advocated regime change in Iran, also called on Iran to enter into “real negotiations”.
He said the Trump administration was ready to talk with Tehran about its nuclear weapons programme, ballistic missile development, and backing of international terror groups.
But the Iranian president said that offer was disingenuous on Tuesday.
“At the same time as you call for negotiations you seek to sanction the foreign minister? It’s obvious that you’re lying,” Rouhani said in his televised speech, as reported by AFP news agency.
‘Maximum pressure’ campaign
Trump administration officials have made various calls for negotiations during the past several months, but Iranian officials have brushed off the calls as insincere.
Iran has refused the prospect of returning to negotiations under the duress of the US’s “maximum pressure” campaign on the country.
Last year, Trump pulled Washington out of a 2015 multinational agreement that saw Tehran drastically scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for economic sanctions relief.
The Trump administration then began reimposing a series of crippling sanctions against Tehran, all while taking steps to pressure the international community to follow suit.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran further escalated in early May after US officials warned that Iran was planning attacks against US troops and interests in the Middle East.
On 8 May, Iran announced plans to suspend two of its commitments under the nuclear deal and gave Europe, China and Russia – who are still signatories to the agreement – a two-month ultimatum to help it circumvent US sanctions.
It also threatened to abandon more of its commitments if a soluti0n is not reached by 7 July.
Since then, Washington has blamed Tehran for a string of attacks in the region, including the sabotage of four ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
Iran has denied responsibility for the incidents.
Amid the ongoing tensions, the US has also announced two separate deployments of American troops to the Middle East, totalling around 2,500 soldiers, to counter Iran.
Meanwhile, a US congressman has introduced an amendment in the House of Representatives that prohibits military funding from being used against Iran unless the Trump administration seeks congressional authorisation.
Ro Khanna, a Democrat, announced on Tuesday the amendment to be joined in next month’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which greenlights the president’s proposed military budget.
It states that the US cannot invoke Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) acts of 2001 and 2002 to engage Iran militarily.
Congress passed the AUMF days after the 11 September 2001 attacks, granting the US president the authority to use military force against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan without congressional approval.
A year later, Congress adopted an updated AUMF, which allowed the US to go to war in Iraq.
“It’s more important than ever that Congress reassert its constitutional authority on war and peace and make clear that the 2001 and 2002 AUMFS cannot be used as the legal basis for the use of force against Iran,” said Congresswomen Barbara Lee, a Democrat, who expressed support for the legislation.[Source: Middle East Eye]