WASHINGTON: In the latest move to pressure Iran into a fresh deal over its nuclear programme, Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
The move came as part of Washington’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against Tehran.
US Treasury Department said on Wednesday that it was imposing sanctions on Zarif for acting on behalf of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader, and is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Zarif shrugged off the sanctions, saying the US move indicated Washington saw him as a “threat”.
“It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interest outside of Iran,” he said.
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.
Tensions have escalated between the two countries since US President Donald Trump last year unilaterally withdrew Washington from a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers in 2015. Since then, it has reimposed punishing sanctions on Iran, including measures aimed at slashing its oil exports to zero, as part of a campaign aimed at pressuring Tehran to negotiate a new nuclear deal.
Fears of a direct US-Iranian conflict have risen since May with several suspected attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone, and a plan for US air raids on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute.
‘Peak of stupidity’
The highly unusual action of penalising the top diplomat of another country comes a month after Trump signed an executive order placing sanctions on Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. At the time, the US had said it was also considering sanctions against Zarif.
The Trump administration said it would make decisions on whether to grant Zarif a travel visa, including for trips to the United Nations, on a case by case basis, holding open the possibility that he might attend the annual UN General Assembly in September. Zarif last visited the UN in New York last month, but his movement was restricted to a small area near the world body’s headquarters.
In Tehran, Abbas Mousavi, foreign ministry spokesman, reacted angrily at the sanctions targeting Zarif.
“The peak of stupidity and inconsistency of America’s leaders is at a point where they don’t recognise Dr Zarif as being influential in Iran’s policy but with the ultimate ignorance they sanction him! The Americans have a strong fear of the logic of Dr Zarif and his negotiating skills,” Mousavi wrote on social media.