In a press conference in June, the U.S. Treasury Department stated that fresh sanctions would target Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. President Donald Trump explained that there were numerous factors behind this decision, including Iran’s strike on an American drone . He said that the Supreme Leader was being targeted as he is “ultimately responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime”.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the sanctioning of the Iranian Foreign Minister. In a statement, he said that Javad Zarif is “a key enabler” of the Supreme Leader’s policies. In a message on Twitter, Pompeo said: “Recently, President [Trump] sanctioned Iran’s Supreme Leader, who enriched himself at the expense of the Iranian people. Today, the U.S. designated his chief apologist [Javad Zarif]. He’s just as complicit in the regime’s outlaw behavior as the rest of Khamenei’s mafia.” He added that the Foreign Minister has been complicit with the regime’s malign activities for years.
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin expanded on the reasons for this latest move in the pressure campaign on Iran, saying that the Iranian Foreign minister “implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader”. He added that the United States is “sending a clear message” to the clerical regime in Iran that its belligerent behaviour will not be accepted.
Mnuchin pointed out that Javad Zarif is the “regime’s primary spokesperson around the world” and is given the freedom to “spread the regime’s propaganda and disinformation” through the social media channels that the regime has banned the people of Iran from using.
The sanctions will mean that any assets Javad Zarif has in the United States will be frozen and reported.
There were indications from Washington weeks ago that this sanctioning would happen, but Javad Zarif was eventually allowed to visit New York in order to attend the United Nations Conference, however tight travel limitations were put in place. He was only permitted to travel between the Iranian UN mission, the United Nations, the Iranian UN ambassador’s residence and the JFK international airport.
The Iranian Foreign Minister took to social media to mock the U.S. move. In a message on Twitter, he said: “The US’ reason for designating me is that I am Iran’s ‘primary spokesperson around the world’. Is the truth really that painful? It 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 Trump administration has made it very clear that it will not be tolerating Iran’s malign activities in the region. Although some argue that sanctions are not the way forward, it must be compared to the European strategy of appeasing the regime. The regime has taken appeasement as a green light to continue with its belligerence.