US won't sanction Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif... yet

US won't sanction Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif... yet
2 min read
12 July, 2019
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif won't yet be hit with US sanctions.
Zarif has come close to being sanctioned [Getty]
The US won't sanction Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad ZarifReuters reported on Friday, but pulled back from the move at the last minute.

Two sources told the agency that the US could be "leaving the door open to diplomacy" by not issuing sanctions on Zarif, as other leading figures of the Iranian government have been. 

Last month despite Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin publically threatened to blacklist the moderate minister, although such public announcements are rare as they give targets time to shift their money.

But sanctioning Zarif would have blocked off a vital channel for negotiations between Iran and the US, after Washington issued crippling sanctions on the Tehran government.

By not sanctioning the foreign minister now, it could be a sign that the US is willing to engage with Iran on its nuclear programme, its missile tests and sponsoring of regional proxy forces.

"Cooler heads prevailed. We ... saw it as not necessarily helpful," one source told Reuters, adding that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had opposed sanctioning Zarif "for the time being".

Zarif insisted last week that he does now own property or have bank accounts abroad, "so I have no personal problem with possible sanctions".

Trump's administration are said to be particularly unhappy with Zarif due to his use of Twitter to fire angry insults at the president and has referred to his team as second-raters who "despise diplomacy, and thirst for war", the agency added.

So close were the US to ignoring Pompeo's advice regarding Zarif that the treasury department internally circulated a draft press release announcing the sanctions.

Zarif is due to arrive in New York next week for a ministerial meeting at the United Nations. If Zarif was sanctioned he would have to be granted a visa.

Tensions between the US and Iran have been at a high since a series of tankers in the Gulf region were attacked over the past two months, which Washington blames on Tehran.

Iran, meanwhile, downed a US spy drone last month, with President Donald Trump coming close to ordering retaliatory air strikes.

Since then the US State Department has voiced some caution on the issue.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said on Thursday that Trump is willing to meet Iran "without preconditions".

"We seek a diplomatic solution," she told reporters. "We have asked our allies to ask Iran to deescalate the situation, not to harass American allies or interests, not to terrorise the region."
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