US sanctions Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif

Administration's move hurts chances of diplomatic talks amid rising tensions between the two countries

The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control said on its website. The Treasury Department said 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.

Under the designations, "all property and interests in property of this individual that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported" to the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), according to the release. As far as Zarif's future travel to the United States, including the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly, the State Department "will evaluate specific circumstances related to this designated on a case-by-case basis consistent with existing laws." Those existing laws include the United Nations Headquarters Agreement, under which the US "will continue to uphold obligations."

In response, Zarif brushed off the sanctions on Twitter, saying the US move indicates Washington sees 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.

Tensions have escalated between the US and Iran since President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. Yet, fears of a direct US-Iranian conflict have risen since May with several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf, Iran's downing of a US surveillance drone, and a plan for US air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute.

On Wednesday, Zarif said that Iran may cut its commitments under the international nuclear deal further unless European partners move to protect it from US sanctions by ensuring it can sell oil and receive income. In a statement, the foreign minister also said Tehran was ready to negotiation with rival Saudi Arabia, adding that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was not welcome in Iran.

“If Saudi Arabia is ready for dialogue, we are always ready for dialogue with our neighbors,” Zarif stressed. “We have never closed the door to dialogue with our neighbors and we will never close the door to dialogue with our neighbors.”

The minister also said Iran could hold similar talks with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a close ally of the Saudis, adding, “If they change their policies it is a very good opportunity for dialogue”.

Similar articles