US Iran sanctions mark ‘permanent closure of path to diplomacy’

New US sanctions targeting senior Iranian figures, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, mark a “permanent closure of the path to diplomacy” between Washington and Tehran, as spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

“Imposing fruitless sanctions against Iran’s supreme leader and the commander of Iran’s diplomacy (Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif) is the permanent closure of the path to diplomacy with Trump’s desperate government,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted.

“Trump’s government is in the process of destroying all the established international mechanisms for maintaining peace and world security,” he added.

On Monday night, Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif blasted the new sanctions in a tweet, saying the US and Israel “despise diplomacy, and thirst for war”.

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday to impose a new wave of sanctions on Iran. The sanctions will deny Khamenei, his office, and those closely affiliated with him access to key financial resources and support.

“The assets of Ayatollah Khamanei and his office will not be spared from the sanctions. These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran’s increasingly provocative actions. We will continue to increase pressure on Tehran, until the regime abandons its dangerous activities and aspirations,” Trump told a press conference in Washington.

Speaking to health officials in Tehran on Tuesday morning, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his government is not afraid of the US. He also commended the Iranian military for shooting down a US Navy drone last week.

“We are not afraid of America but we are patient… their objective is to bring this establishment and the people of Iran to their knees,” he said, according to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated Tasnim news agency.

“Identifying a drone militarily is difficult … we kiss the hands of the Ministry of Defense and the IRGC involved in downing the US spy drone,” he added.

Speaking in Jerusalem alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday morning, UN National Security Adviser John Bolton said Iran has not shown it is willing to renounce its nuclear weapons program.

“As we speak, American diplomatic representatives are surging across the Middle East seeking a path for peace. In response, Iran’s silence has been definite,” he told a press conference.

“There is simply no evidence that Iran has made the strategic decision to renounce nuclear weapons and open realistic discussions to demonstrate that decision.”

Bolton blasted Tehran for its decision to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium beyond the limits imposed by the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Washington withdrew from the deal in May 2018, claiming it did not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

“In just a few days, perhaps by the end of the week, Iran has threatened to exceed the key limit imposed by the inadequate 2015 Iran nuclear deal, exposing once again the fatal deficiencies of that failed agreement,” said Bolton.

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

US-Iran tensions have risen again in recent days following the downing of the US Navy surveillance aircraft in the early hours of Thursday over international waters. Iran insists the craft violated its airspace.

Washington deployed yet more troops to the region following attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week. The US and its allies blame the attacks on Iran, but Tehran strenuously rejects the charges.

Asked whether the new rounds of sanctions were a direct response to the tanker attacks or the downing of the US Navy drone, US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said some “were in the works” previously and some were “because of recent activities”.

The US Treasury Department said sanctions had also been imposed on eight senior commanders of Iran’s navy, aerospace sector, and ground forces of the IRGC, including Naval Force Commander Alireza Tangsiri, Ground Forces Brigadier-General and Commander Mohammad Pakpour, and Aerospace Force Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh.

“These commanders sit atop a bureaucracy that supervises the IRGC’s malicious regional activities, including its provocative ballistic missile program, harassment and sabotage of commercial vessels in international waters, and its destabilizing presence in Syria,” the department said in a statement.