Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif appears to be taking the news that the US is levying sanctions against him in stride.
Less than five minutes after the news officially broke Wednesday that Zarif would be under a US financial and travel embargo moving forward, the Twitter-savvy diplomat had already posted.
He said the designation wouldn’t really affect him or his family.
Embargoes put into place after the Iran hostage crisis have prevented Americans from doing business with Iran and vice versa for decades, making it unlikely that Zarif would be impacted by the financial aspect of the sanctions.
The travel ban, however, does put a damper on moving inside the US for Zarif, who was educated at the University of Denver when he was younger. In his time as foreign minister, he’s given talks at several venues, including New York University in 2015 and the Council on Foreign Relations as recently as last year.
While the sanctions placed on Zarif are new, when he came to New York City last month for meetings at the United Nations, the State Department limited his movement. He was only allowed to travel between John F. Kennedy International Airport, the Iranian mission to the UN, the Iranian ambassador’s residence, and the UN headquarters itself. At the time, a State Department official told the Voice of America it was because Zarif “‘uses US freedoms to spread malign propaganda’ and said Zarif ‘is a mouthpiece of an autocracy that suppresses free speech.’”
“Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader, 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,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement released soon after the sanctions dropped. “At the same time the Iranian regime denies Iranian citizens’ access to social media, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spreads the regime’s propaganda and disinformation around the world through these mediums.”
Trump administration officials in a call Wednesday afternoon briefing reporters on the sanctions echoed that, saying that Zarif functions more as a propaganda minister than a foreign minister.
The move is the latest provocation in a back-and-forth between the US and Iran that goes back to President Donald Trump’s decision last year to pull out of the nuclear deal signed by Iran and several major world powers. Since then, the US has reinstated economic sanctions on Iran and pressured allies to stop buying Iranian oil, a practice that Tehran seemed set to tolerate until recently.
In recent months, Iran has allegedly authorized several attacks on oil tankers passing through the Gulf, seized a British-flagged tanker, and downed a US drone. The US nearly launched a military attack on Iran in June in what it called retaliation against Iranian aggression, but the mission was halted at the last minute.
Zarif has had plenty of time as well to brace for the sanctions’ impact. Mnuchin first announced them as coming back in June, pledging at the time that they were coming by the end of the week. Administration officials declined to comment on what caused the delay when asked on Wednesday.