Iranian Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has mocked US officials as "first-class idiots" with an “irrational” approach to Iran that will result in an “unprecedented” defeat for the Americans.
His scathing put-down came in the wake of the embarrassing mess the US got itself into with Turkey this week over whether it is or is not withdrawing from Syria.
"Some U.S. officials pretend that they are mad. Of course I don't agree with that, but they are first-class idiots," he said in a speech given in Tehran on January 9, according to his official Twitter feed.
While Khamenei’s choice insults might be seen as mild compared to some of the language one Donald J. Trump has come up with, they reflect the heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington as the US essentially goes about trying to reduce Iran’s economy to rubble in pursuit of Middle East policy concessions from the Iranians.
US official taunted
In his remarks to a group from Iran’s religious capital of Qom, 79-year-old cleric Khamenei also taunted an unnamed US official who predicted that Iran would witness regime change by the end of 2018.
"A while ago, a U.S. politician had said, among a gathering of terrorists and thugs, that he hopes to celebrate this Christmas in Tehran," Khamenei said, according to his Twitter feed. "Christmas was a few days ago. This is how U.S. calculations work."
Members of the Trump administration that have called for regime change and predicted it would occur soon include White House national security advisor John Bolton, a foreign policy hawk who often directs aggressive statements at Tehran.
Bolton, sent packing from Turkey this week by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who took exception to his public demands made in Israel that Ankara guarantee protection for Kurdish forces who have fought with the US against Islamic State in Syria, often speaks at gatherings of the exiled People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) opposition group.
"Before 2019 we here will celebrate in Tehran," Bolton told a MEK meeting in Paris in July 2017.
The move by Bolton and other Trump officials to ally themselves with the MEK has drawn gasps of astonishment in Iran. Considered a terrorist movement by Tehran's leaders, the MEK is seen by many Iran observers as a fringe, cult-like group which lost out when the spoils were shared after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It went on to take Iraq’s side in the Iran-Iraq war and went into exile in Albania. It has no apparent support of any significance inside Iran.
All-caps lost in Persian
Trump’s use of all-caps in tweeted threats aimed at Iran causes some levity among Iranians, with wags pointing out that Persian does not allow for all-caps writing so the only way that a typical Trump tweet could be properly relayed to Iranians would be through someone shouting out parts of it.
During his address to the visitors from Qom, Khamenei acknowledged that the US sanctions “do put pressure on the country and the people”.
But he added: “The Americans happily say that these sanctions are unprecedented in history. Yes, they’re unprecedented. And the defeat that the Americans will face will be unprecedented, God willing.”
In 2017, Khamenei responded to Trump calling Iran a “terrorist” nation by saying his comments were “idiotic”. He added: “The body of this man, Trump, will turn to ashes and become the food of the worms and ants, while the Islamic Republic continues to stand.”