US imposes sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif
WASHINGTON: The United States has imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, targeting the country’s top spokesman and potentially hurting chances of diplomatic talks amid rising tensions between the two countries.
Zarif, a critical figure in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, dismissed the action and said it would not affect him.
US President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal last year and ramped up sanctions to put pressure on Iran’s economy.
Strains between Washington and Tehran have risen more in recent months after attacks on tankers in the Gulf that the United States blames on Iran and Iran’s downing of a US drone that prompted preparations for a US retaliatory airstrike that Trump called off at the last minute.
“Javad 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 behaviour is completely unacceptable,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The sanctions against Zarif would block any property or interests he has in the United States, but the Iranian foreign minister said he had none.
“The US’ reason for designating me is that I am Iran’s ‘primary spokesperson around the world’,” Zarif said on Twitter. “Is the truth really that painful? It has 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.”
Zarif lived in the United States, from the age of 17 as a student of international relations in San Francisco and Denver, and subsequently as a diplomat at the United Nations in New York, where he was Iranian ambassador from 2002 to 2007.