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US Imposes Sanctions on Zarif

The US has imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, one of the key architects of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. “Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] and is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world. The United States is sending a clear message to the Iranian regime that its recent behavior is completely unacceptable,” part of a statement issued by US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. The new sanctions against Iran’s top diplomat are intended to block access to any assets he has in the United States. In response, Zarif tweeted that the US decision “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.” The targeting of the public face of the mullahs comes despite repeated overtures to Tehran by US President Donald Trump, who has maintained a willingness to renegotiate the JCPOA, which he previously called one of the worst agreements ever. Analysts believe Washington’s move could further dampen the already slim possibility of direct engagement with the Islamic Republic, which has repeatedly said that it will not return to the negotiating table to revise the pact despite hints to the contrary. Instead, Iran and the remaining five parties to the nuclear accord – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – are trying to salvage the agreement through a financial mechanism known as INSTEX that would circumvent US sanctions by allowing continued non-dollar trade with Tehran. Meanwhile, tensions remain high in the Gulf, with the White House having accused Iran of attacking numerous ships near the Strait of Hormuz – in addition to seizing the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero and downing an American drone that the US military claims was flying over international waters.