In an unprecedented move, the United States on Wednesday slapped sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the ground that he acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Iranian Supreme Leader.
"This action represents another step toward denying the Iranian regime the resources to enable terror and oppress the Iranian people," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is in Thailand, said in a statement soon after the Department of Treasury announced the designation of the Iranian foreign minister.
Instead of using Iran's precious resources to invest in the brave and rightfully proud people of Iran, the Iranian regime facilitates and supports terrorism, jails and tortures innocent Iranians, fuels foreign conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and, in recent weeks has expanded its nuclear programme, he said.
"Foreign Minister Zarif, a senior regime official and apologist, has for years now been complicit in these malign activities, Pompeo said alleging that the Iranian Foreign Ministry is not merely the diplomatic arm of the Islamic Republic but also a means of advancing many of the Supreme Leader's destabilising policies.
"Foreign Minister Zarif and the Foreign Ministry he runs take their direction from the Supreme Leader and his office. Foreign Minister Zarif is a key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei's policies throughout the region and around the world. The designation of Javad Zarif today reflects this reality," Pompeo said.
Under the sanctions, all property and interests in property of Zarif that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked.
It also generally prohibit all dealings by US persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.
A senior administration official, however, did not respond to questions on the properties of Zarif, if any in the US.
The Treasury said any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducts or facilitates a significant transaction for or on behalf of Zarif could be subject to US correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.
"Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of the 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 behaviour is completely unacceptable," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
"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," Mnuchin said.
Senator Marco Rubio supported the decision to impose sanctions to block any US-based assets of Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
"That said, I'm very concerned that the Administration just renewed controversial sanctions waivers that are allowing Vladimir Putin's Russian regime and other foreign countries not only to continue assisting the Iranian regime's expansion of nuclear infrastructure, but also to keep the flawed Iran nuclear deal on life support," Rubio said.
"The Iranian regime blatantly violated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by concealing from international inspectors its dangerous atomic archive for rapid nuclear weaponisation, and it continues to violate the deal by escalating its uranium enrichment activities. The right response here is to continue maximizing international pressure against the Iranian regime not to ease it," he said.