Iran’s supreme leader scorned the idea of negotiations to ease his country’s tense standoff with the US in his first comments since being sanctioned by Donald Trump.
“If we agree in negotiations to their demands, they will make the nation miserable,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, arguing Washington was attempting to strip Iran of its economic and defense capabilities. “And if we don’t, they will go on creating political frenzy, fuelling propaganda and applying pressure.”
He spoke after Iranian officials said the wreckage of a US drone shot down was found four miles inside its territorial waters, in one of Iran’s most detailed accounts of an incident that brought the Middle East to the brink of war.
“After the shooting down of the drone, initial actions were taken and its location was identified,” Brigadier General Majid Fakhri, the head of the Iranian Armed Forces’ Geographical
Organization, was cited as saying by the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
President Trump abruptly cancelled planned airstrikes against Iran for downing the drone, which US officials say was flying through international airspace as the region risked a devastating new conflict. But tensions have continued to escalate with the two governments trading threats and insults.
Trump vowed to meet any Iranian strike on the US with overwhelming force, while Iran said the path to a diplomatic solution to the crisis had closed after its top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other top officials were sanctioned.
It also characterised the White House as suffering from a “mental disorder.”
Tensions have spiked in the Gulf since May, when the Trump administration revoked waivers on the import of Iranian oil, squeezing its economy a year after the US walked away from the landmark 2015 deal meant to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear weapon. Since then, a spate of attacks on oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping chokepoint, have convulsed the region and pushed up oil prices. Iran denies involvement in the attacks on shipping.
The new penalties are unlikely to have a significant impact on a country that’s already in recession due to stringent US sanctions on its oil sector and has been largely shut out of the global financial system.
The US has sanctioned more than 80 percent of Iran’s economy, according to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who was in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to rally a front against Iran. Still, the targeting of Khamenei shocked some Iranians because he’s considered a spiritual guide and a holy man by his most devoted followers.
Russia, with deep political and economic ties to Iran, has denounced US efforts to raise pressure on Iran and backed Tehran’s account of the downing of the US drone. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was still calling for dialogue to resolve the crisis.
A top Russian Foreign Ministry official said hopes for a diplomatic solution to the crisis were fading after the penalties imposed on Khamenei.