Wednesday, 13 November, 2019

U.S. imposes sanctions on Iran's foreign minister

IRAN-US-SANCTIONS People withdraw money from an ATM in the Iranian capital Tehran's grand bazaar on Nov. 3 2018. Atta Kenare AFP Getty Images
Patty Aguilar | 01 August, 2019, 05:23

The Trump administration on Wednesday issued sanctions against Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, formally labeling him a terrorist enabler and blacklisting all of his property, assets, and investments, according to senior administration officials.

The highly unusual action of penalizing the top diplomat of another nation comes a month after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order placing sanctions on Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed the news Wednesday afternoon.

However, the Trump administration is not closing the door to potential nuclear talks with Iran by sanctioning Zarif, who it does not consider a significant decision maker, a US official said on Wednesday.

"The Zarif designation is one of the most ridiculous steps I've seen this Administration take", Richard Nephew, former U.S. sanctions expert and Iran deal negotiator, wrote on Twitter.

Zarif 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".

The official accused Zarif of functioning as 'propaganda minister, not foreign minister'.

'The United States will continue to uphold our obligations, ' the administration official said.

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"For far too long he has been indulged as the reasonable and credible official representative of Iran and today President Trump decided enough is enough".

Trump past year abandoned the nuclear agreement, arguing that he wanted a bigger deal that not only limited Iran's atomic work, but also reined in its support for proxies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, and curbed its ballistic missile program.

'Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran's Supreme Leader, and is the regime's primary spokesperson around the world. "Is the truth really that painful?"

The sanctions had been expected since last month when Mnuchin said Trump had directed him to sanction Zarif.

Zarif has emerged as the face of the Islamic Republic's nuclear intransigence and its threats to USA assets and allies in the region.

"If we do have an official contact with Iran, we would want to have contact with someone who is a significant decisionmaker", the officials told the paper.

"This puts the Trump administration's Iran policy incoherence on full display".

Riyadh also accuses Iran of supplying missiles and drones used in cross-border attacks on Saudi cities by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis, a charge both the group and Tehran reject. "It won't meaningfully affect Zarif's diplomacy, it probably won't result in much in terms of asset freeze or complications for him, and will annoy other world leaders".

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