The European Union on Thursday expressed “regret” over the US decision to impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif and said he would continue to work with him.
“We regret this decision … on our part, we’ll continue to work with Zarif as the highest diplomat representing Iran and in view of the importance of maintaining diplomatic relations” with Tehran, said EU foreign affairs spokesman Federica Mogherini.
On Wednesday, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Jawad Zarif, which would clamp down on Iran’s top diplomats.
The White House said the sanctions include freezing any assets of the United States or those controlled by US entities.
Washington will also seek to limit international flights to Qatar.
“Zarif is carrying out the reckless agenda of Iran’s supreme leader, who is the main spokesman for the (Iranian) regime in the world”, US Treasury Secretary Steven Menuchin said in a statement.
“The United States is sending a message to the Iranian regime that its latest behavior is totally unacceptable”.
Zarif was at the heart of Iran’s attempts to defuse tensions with the United States and other countries over its controversial nuclear program, which Washington says is merely a cover for a covert nuclear weapons program.
But a senior official under President Donald Trump said the diplomatic image of Zarif was false.
“The main issue is that he had the ability to deceive … by presenting himself as an honest and logical interlocutor in the name of the regime”, the official told him on condition of anonymity. What we are referring to today is that it is not so”.
The diplomat himself accused Zarif of acting as “political propaganda minister, not as foreign minister”.
In addition to attempts to freeze Zarif’s assets, Washington will seek to limit its ability to act as a diplomat touring the world. However, he is expected to be able to visit United Nations Headquarters in New York although it is under tight restrictions.
“This decision represents a new attempt to deprive the Iranian regime of resources aimed at terrorism and to subdue the Iranian people”, said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Instead of using Iran’s precious resources to invest in its proud and courageous people, it facilitates the regime and supports terrorism, imprisoning and torturing innocent Iranians, fueling international conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and in recent weeks expanding its nuclear program”, Pompeo added.
“Zarif, a senior official in the regime who praises him, has for years been complicit in these harmful activities”, he said.
Zarif immediately replied that Washington was trying to silence Iran on the international scene.
“The reason the United States gave me sanctions is that I’m the main spokesman for Iran in the world”, he said.
Voices in the United States rose against the US decision, which seemed to close the door to dialogue with Tehran.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who tried to start mediation with Iran, wrote on Twitter that “sanctions on diplomats weaken diplomacy”.
The White House stressed that it was always ready to hold talks, but not with Zarif.
“If we have to have contact with the Iranians, we want someone who makes decisions”, a US administration official said.
Zarif said sanctions would “have no effect” on him and his family.
“I have no assets or assets outside of Iran.
Thank you for considering me a threat”.
On the other hand, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif ridiculed US policy in the Middle East on Wednesday and accused countries buying US arms of arming the Islamic state.
“If you killed more than 3,000 Americans (in the September 11, 2001 attacks), but you remain a customer of the United States (by buying their weapons), you can have nuclear weapons, and even Washington will help you”, Zarif tweeted.
“But if you refuse to bow to Team B, you’ll not even be able to have peaceful nuclear energy”.
Zarif uses “Team B” to refer to what he says is cooperation to conspire against Iran: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US National Security Adviser John Bolton .
“It doesn’t seem important to fight Iran as an advocate, while America’s customers are buying it”.
“We’ve withdrawn from the nuclear agreement (in 2018) because it will not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
A country that says ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ should not have nuclear weapons”, he said.
Zarif’s statement follows a meeting between the commander of the Iranian border guards, Qasem Rezaei and the commander of the UAE Coast Guard, Mohammad Ali Musleh Al Ahbabi.
In the light of this rare public meeting, Zarif seems to be referring to Saudi Arabia with its statement on US weapons and the arming of a “ISIS” Of the 19 people who carried out the 2001 attacks, 15 are Saudis.
Tehran and Riyadh have many controversial issues in a power struggle in a number of countries in the region.
The region is tense between Iran on the one hand and the United States and its Gulf allies, especially Saudi Arabia, over controversial issues, notably the Iranian nuclear program and freedom of navigation in the Gulf waters.