In a move analysts characterized as a further indication that U.S. President Donald Trump's recent diplomatic overtures toward Iran were completely empty, the White House on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Iranian foreign minister and top diplomat Javad Zarif.
Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), said in a statement that if "Trump was serious about negotiating with Iran, he would appoint a credible envoy and direct them to negotiate with Iranian diplomats rather than subjecting them to a ridiculous sanctions designation."
"Trump can't simultaneously hold out the option of credible negotiations while implementing the path to war plotted by John Bolton."
—Jamal Abdi, National Iranian American Council
"Instead, Trump is ensuring that there will be no serious negotiations with Iran during his tenure," said Abdi. "Once again, without a clear line to Zarif or any other Iranian officials to de-escalate tensions, the next crisis that the U.S. or Iran precipitates will once again risk war."
Trita Parsi, executive vice president at the Quincy Institute, called the sanctions "the latest evidence that the Trump administration is unwilling and incapable of engaging in diplomacy with Iran."
The sanctions against Zarif, which were first floated as a possibility in June, were announced by the Treasury Department on Wednesday.
According to the Washington Post, "The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets and prohibit any U.S. person or entity from financial dealings with Zarif, and threatens sanctions against those in other countries that deal with him."
"The sanctions also prohibit travel to the United States, which is already banned for Iranian officials," the Post reported. "Under international agreement, the United States must admit those traveling to the United Nations in their official capacity. Zarif visited the United Nations in July, although the State Department limited him to U.N. headquarters and the Iranian diplomatic mission in New York nearby."
Zarif, who was the top Iranian negotiator of the nuclear deal Trump violated last year, mocked the sanctions on Twitter.
"The U.S.' reason for designating me is that I am Iran's 'primary spokesperson around the world.' Is the truth really that painful?" Zarif tweeted. "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 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.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 31, 2019
We know that calling for dialog & peace is an existential threat to #B_Team.
And since reason for designating me is my words, would "US persons" need OFAC license to "engage" with me by reading my writings or listening to interviews?
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 31, 2019
Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry, called the sanctions the "peak of stupidity and inconsistency."
"The Americans have a strong fear of the logic of Dr. Zarif and his negotiating skills," said Mousavi.
NIAC's Abdi said the timing of the sanctions, which come amid soaring tensions between the U.K. and Iran, suggests "hawks like [national security adviser] John Bolton are trying to box in the administration and eliminate diplomatic off-ramps."
"Trump can't simultaneously hold out the option of credible negotiations while implementing the path to war plotted by John Bolton," said Abdi. "The time is running out for Trump to shift tracks, lest he be locked into the inevitable result of his failing maximum pressure strategy leading to a disastrous war."