By Pooya Stone
The US sanctioned Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday, describing him as the “propaganda arm” of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who hinted at potential sanctions last month, said: “Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s supreme leader and is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted about the news, calling Zarif the “chief apologist” of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and declaring him “complicit in the regime’s outlaw behaviour”.
In a statement, he elaborated: “Foreign Minister Zarif is a key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies throughout the region and around the world. The designation of Javad Zarif today reflects this reality.”
It remains unclear whether Zarif will be barred from visiting the United Nations in New York. His movements were already restricted to the UN headquarters, the Iranian mission, and JFK airport.
This move was welcomed by many in the Iranian Resistance, including Mohammad Mohaddessin, the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, who tweeted: “Zarif and his ministry’s role is to justify suppression, the export of terrorism & warmongering. He boasts being a friend to [Quds Force Chief] Ghassem Soleimani, [Syrian dictator] Bashar Assad, and [Hezbollah Secretary General] Hassan Nasrollah. His ministry, along with Khamenei’s office, [President Hassan] Rouhani, and MOIS must be included in the terrorist list.”
The administration has already imposed sanctions on Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Some fear that this move will cut off any chance of talks with Iran, especially considering the rising tensions between the two nations over Iran’s attacks on shipping in the Persian Gulf. However, Trump administration officials maintain that talking to Zarif is pointless because he doesn’t have decision-making authority.
Pompeo insisted that he wanted to solve the problem diplomatically though.
He said: “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.”
Even as the US imposed sanctions on Zarif, they extended waivers on separate nuclear-related sanctions, which should have come into force today, over the objections of Iran hawks in Congress. National security adviser John Bolton said the waivers would be extended for 90 days, supposedly to allow Russia and other European countries to help convert key Iranian nuclear facilities into energy and research centres, which cannot make nuclear fuel.