Washington has on Wednesday slam sanctions against Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. The sanctions have automatically freeze any of Zarif’s assets in the US or that are controlled by US organizations. US government announced adding that it will also cub his international travels as proof that Iran’s reckless behavior of late is unacceptable.
“Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader and is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world. The United States is sending a clear message to the Iranian regime that its recent behavior is completely unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Zarif’s sanctions under the same sanctions earlier applied to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the latest blow by United State President Donald Trump to the Obama administration’s attempt to end nuclear tensions via active negotiations.
Meanhile, in an unclear message Iran, US Wednesday extended waivers for three Iranian civil nuclear projects, to avoid provoking the other signatories involved in the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement like China, Russia, Germany, France, and Great Britain.
“This is a short 90-day extension. We are watching those nuclear activities very, very closely, they remain under daily scrutiny,” said White House National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Iran’s foreign minister Zarif has been having talks with foreign capitals over Iran’s nuclear power industry, which the Islamic nation described as peaceful, but Washington and Israel insist is cover for a secret weapons program.
A senior Trump administration official said that Zarif’s diplomatic image, bolstered by his fluent English, self-effacing humor and background as a US-educated academic is a pretense.
“The key issue is that he has had this veneer… of being the sincere and reasonable interlocutor for the regime. Our point today is that he is no such thing,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“Today President Trump decided enough was enough,” the official said, accusing Zarif of functioning as “propaganda minister, not a foreign minister.”
Iran’s spokesperson Zarif quickly fought back, tweeting that Washington is trying to silence Iran on the international platform, “The US’ reason for designating me is that I am Iran’s ‘primary spokesperson around the world’ Is the truth really that painful?” he published on Twitter.
In addition to freezing assets, the US will also squeeze Zarif’s ability to function as a globe-trotting diplomat. Henceforth, he is expected to be able to continue to visit the United Nations in New York, albeit under very tight restrictions. “The United States will continue to uphold our obligations,” the administration official revealed.
In mid-July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Zarif would be issued a visa but would be monitored not to go beyond six blocks around the UN headquarters.
Critics are fighting the legal or diplomatic standing for hitting Zarif, saying that sanctions will have no ability to create room for dialogue.
“If you sanction diplomats you’ll have less diplomacy,” Republican Senator Rand Paul tweeted. While the senior administration official insisted that the US still wants talks but it will not be with Zarif.
US diplomats said “do not consider him to be our primary point of contact,” the official said. “If we do have official contact with the Iranians, we want someone who is a significant decision-maker.”
“The United States continues to seek a diplomatic solution that addresses the Iranian regime’s destructive behavior. The only path forward is a comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of its threats. Until then, our campaign of diplomatic isolation and maximum economic pressure will continue,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Zarif on his part is showing that the sanctions have almost no effect on him and his family, by tweeting “no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran. Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda.”