What Happened: The U.S. Treasury Department announced on July 31 that it was imposing sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, limiting Zarif's ability to travel to or interact with or through the United States. Zarif just finished a weeklong trip and media blitz in New York in which he strongly criticized U.S. policy on Iran.
Why It Matters: Sanctioning Zarif makes it more difficult to approach negotiations with Iran in the near term and deepens the web of sanctions that must be untangled before the United States and Iran can approach negotiations in the future. Sanctioning Iran's primary foreign diplomat is also a symbolic blow to perceptions of U.S. willingness to talk to Iran.
Background: The United States is committed to broadening its sanctions on Iran in an effort to cripple the Iranian economy, change Iranian behavior and ultimately force Iran back to the negotiating table. A sanctions designation against a prominent, outward-facing politician like Zarif has been expected since the United States designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization in April and issued an executive order against Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in June.
- Tehran Journeys Down a Provocative Nuclear Path (July 8, 2019)
- Sanctions on Iran's Supreme Leader Go Beyond Symbolism (June 25, 2019)
- By Targeting Iran's IRGC, Trump Goes Where No Other Administration Has (April 9, 2019)