In his sanctions announcement, Trump accidentally named the wrong Supreme Leader of Iran, who has been dead since 1989

Trump sanctions announcement

White House

In a statement Monday, Trump named a long deceased Iranian leader as target of new US sanctions

  • President Trump in an announcement Monday said the US was imposing sanctions on Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini - who has been dead since 1989.
  • The sanctions in fact apply to Iran's current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is a small difference, but was seized upon by his critics. 
  • Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the Trump White House was suffering "mental retardation" after the sanctions against Khamenei were announced. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump mistakenly named a Supreme Leader of Iran who has been dead since 1989 as the target of new US sanctions.

By mispronouncing one syllable in a press conference in the Oval Office Monday, Trump said he was sanctioning "Ayatollah Khomeini" of Iran.Advertisement

He meant to name Ayatollah Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader, as confirmed by a White House transcript and an announcement by the US Treasury.

Khomeini, who died in 1989, was the predecessor to the present Supreme Leader. He ruled Iran from its revolution in 1979 until his death.


Ayatollah Khomeini

Francois LOCHON/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini took power after the Islamic Revolution, and died in 1989. He is pictured here in January 24, 1984 in Iran

In the video, Trump says (emphasis ours):

"Sanctions imposed through the executive order that I'm about to sign will deny the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader's Office, and those closely affiliated with him and the office, access to key financial resources and support. The assets of Ayatollah Khomeini and his office will not be spared from the sanctions."The one-syllable difference is somewhat less apparent when comparing the men's full names: Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini was the first Ayatollah and Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei is the second.Advertisement

On Twitter, critics were quick to question the discrepancy.


The sanctions imposed Monday come amid escalating tensions between Iran and the US, with Trump abruptly cancelling a decision to launch airstrikes last week against Iran after it downed a US drone. Advertisement

Targeting Iran's head of state clearly touched a nerve.

In a Tuesday speech broadcast live on Iranian TV, Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, said the Trump White House is suffering "mental retardation."