TEHRAN – Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif, who was recently targeted by US sanctions, said that peace talks in the Middle East threatened Washington’s agenda in the region.
Zarif was expected to be the interlocutor in a possible dialogue with the US to reduce current tensions, but Washington’s latest decision to sanction the Iranian minister has made the chance for talks less likely.
“We know that calling for dialogue and peace is an existential threat to B Team,” the top Iranian diplomat tweeted.
Iran uses the term “B Team” to refer to US National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
However, the Iranian perception of the United Arab Emirates has recently softened after the latter reduced its military presence in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting against Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The Iranian Border Guard Command and the UAE signed an agreement Thursday to strengthen security cooperation in the Gulf waters.
The Persian Gulf has been an epicenter of escalating tensions since May when several attacks were launched on oil tankers, for which the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have held Iran accountable.
On June 20, Iran shot down a US Navy drone when, according to Tehran, it violated its airspace while conducting surveillance tasks. However, the Pentagon claimed the aircraft was conducting a reconnaissance mission over international waters.
A few days later, the US imposed sanctions against the Islamic republic’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and stressed Zarif would be next.
Washington justified its latest decision which freezes any assets Zarif may have in the US by saying that the Iranian foreign minister “implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader.”
Zarif “is the regime’s primary spokesperson around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.
Sanctions against Zarif were delayed for several weeks because the US authorities believed such an action would cut off any chance for talks.
“It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran,” Zarif posted to Twitter and followed up with the tweet posted directly at the US government. “Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda.”
Meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani condemned the US decision, calling it childish.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: “The Americans are seriously afraid of Zarif’s logic and his art of negotiations.”
Zarif was a key point of contact for the US and other major powers as they negotiated the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a deal which the US pulled out of last year and began to impose strict sanctions on the country to strangle the economy.