The prospect of easing tensions between the United States and Iran seemed increasingly remote on Tuesday as threats and personal insults arose between the two governments.
In a language reminiscent of last year's taunts between President Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described the White House as "mentally crippled" and condemned the new sanctions against the top Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as "outrageous and idiotic".
Trump called Rouhani's comments "ignorant" and said that Iran did not understand "the reality". Any attack on "anything American" tweeted the president – who broke off a military strike last week It should be launched after Iran launched an unmanned US drone – this will turn into "overwhelming" US troops and "wiping out" some Iranian assets Episode.  Under the noise, there were no new ways to avoid a conflict that both sides considered undesirable, and more doors seemed to close than open.
Trump has repeatedly stated that he wants to talk. But he has hinted that he is ready to put pressure on the Iranian economy and leadership until Iran meets the "very simple demands" it has tweeted – "No nuclear weapons and no further sponsorship of terror!"
According to international restrictions, there is no reason to speak with an opponent who is repressing life, and the United States must first show some respect. It was said that the "useless sanctioning" of Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meant "the permanent closure of the doors of diplomacy."
Even those in Washington have begun to fully support the government's "maximum pressure" sanctions policy to question whether Trump has a strategy.
Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, urged critics that economic sanctions against Khamenei are only "symbolic" because the ayatollah has no US assets. Head of an authoritarian state, Khamenei presides over a $ 200 billion corporate conglomerate that controls massive international investment, Dubowitz said in a Twitter post Michael Rubin, a Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute, where he teamed with Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton , who worked together, said: "I am one who believes that pressure can work against Iran. But neither the Iranians nor many of Trump's own supporters understand where Trump is headed, he said.
"During the campaign, Trump talked about how a lack of predictability can actually be a strategic advantage," said Rubin. "However, that implies that the lack of predictability is more part of a policy than coverage for the lack of a policy."
flag. In other words, sometimes it's better to address a problem with a scalpel than with an ax. "
Other experts said that Trump's summit strategy with nuclear-armed North Korea was prompted to go public" When and when Tehran is ready to talk, the differences between Trump and Khamenei are further obstacles, "said Karim Sadjadpour the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace. "Trump favors public festivals on broad topics; Khamenei prefers private discussions on narrow topics.
While Trump has emphasized that the Iranian armed forces can not match those of the United States, US defense officials have wondered whether it makes sense to provoke a confrontation and whether Bolton, a leading hawk Iran is pushing the president into a position where conflict is the only option.
Trump was hit by all sides of the problem. Following the shooting down of the drones last week, he warned Tehran of a "big mistake," but later speculated that the attack was due to an erroneous action by low-level personnel. From the first approval of a retaliatory strike to the termination of the strike, as this could lead to a "disproportionate" Iranian death, he threatened on Tuesday that "any attack by Iran on anything American will be done with great and overwhelming force," and in some Cases "extinction."
Trump asked Tuesday if he had an exit strategy in case of war, and told reporters, "They do not need an exit strategy, I do not make exit strategies."
Sadjadpour said that "the danger Trump's approach is to provoke an escalation cycle while signaling to Iran and the world that he has no interest in conflict, and as a result, Tehran may misjudge that it can continue to fire free on US interests, allies and assets . "
The legislator has turned his attention to the legal authority, which could be used to carry out military action against Iran. Democrats in both houses of Congress want to change the law of defense to clearly state that Trump would have to seek congressional approval before engaging militarily with Iran. Some supporters of the Senate are blocking defense legislation until they are promised a vote on Iran.
"There are many people who believe we need to take a stand," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) At a Senate Democrats' meeting, they discussed at length what they should do.
When the Democrats banded together, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Told reporters he personally opposed the amendment: "I am I am not against having to vote. "
Pentagon officials do not believe that Congressional approval for using military force in 2001 in response to al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attacks in this country has been the basis for virtually all US military deployments since then The Middle East, North Africa and Asia – can be used as a legal basis for a war with Iran, said a defense official, who commented on the sensitive issue on the condition of anonymity.
the authorization question i is probably controversial. Trump said he believes he has all the powers he needs to defeat Iran, and the likelihood is that the president declares such action admissible on the basis of his constitutional powers to act in national defense.
But Republic leaders, including McConnell, expressed concern over the debate itself, which states that if Congress attempts to curtail the President's actions, it would continue to confuse the US policy seems.
But with the mistrust of the administration, the confusion seems already widespread.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo answered questions from allies, experts and journalists as to whether, as the government said, the US drone was over international waters or within Iran's maritime borders, as Tehran emphasized Sunday, when doubts were voiced meant to help an opponent.
The "childlike card" submitted by Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, this is a clear "contrast to the excellence and professionalism of American military and intelligence services," said Pompeo. "We should not give the Iranians a moment to write a reporter, and there is even a credible answer to the American-backed record."
Pompeo accused Iran of additional "disinformation," including what he said Last week, it was reported that the United States had withdrawn from a military base in Iraq, even though the report in question was attributed by Reuters to US military officials and was only based on the withdrawal of contractual partners.
Retired US diplomat Jeffrey Feltman, a Middle East expert who has held numerous senior US State Department posts and served as Under Secretary of State for Politics at the United Nations, said that Iran, apart from the "rhetoric," Taking steps to make sure we know it is they will respond to American steps. "But Iran has not taken" such large steps that they are irreversible, provided no miscalculation and no misinterpretation. , , , Neither do we, "he said of the Trump administration.
" But at some point it just seems like it's getting riskier, "said Feltman." The idea of relying on the Iranian mullahs to hold back, or the instincts of the President not to go to war are, in my opinion, rather weak foundations on which to build a de-escalation strategy. "
Karoun Demirjian and Missy Ryan in Washington, Erin Cunningham in Dubai, and Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem contributed to this report.