The U.S. decision to impose sanctions on Iranian diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif shows they are “afraid” of his eloquence and powers of persuasion, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday.
The U.S. Treasury said its sanctions would freeze any of Zaria’s assets in the United States or controlled by U.S. entities, as well as restrict his ability to travel the global stage as his country’s top diplomatic representative.
“Javad Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in announcing the new range of impositions.
U.S. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo was quick to back the move:
Recently, President @realDonaldTrump sanctioned Iran’s Supreme Leader, who enriched himself at the expense of the Iranian people. Today, the U.S. designated his chief apologist @JZarif. He’s just as complicit in the regime’s outlaw behavior as the rest of @khamenei_ir’s mafia. pic.twitter.com/XhDdqR6rik
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 31, 2019
Hassan Rouhani then returned fire by saying, “They are afraid of our foreign minister’s interviews,” referring to a recent round of interviews Zarif gave to foreign media in New York.
“It is completely clear that the foundations of the White House have been shaken by the words and logic of an informed, devoted and diplomatic individual.
“They are doing childish things now. Maybe there’s no better way to describe (the sanctions) but childish,” Rouhani continued, speaking during a visit to the northwestern city of Tabriz.
“Our enemies are so helpless that they have lost the ability to act and think wisely.”
Zarif also shot back, tweeting the United States was trying to silence Iran on the international stage.
“The US’ reason for designating me is that I am Iran’s ‘primary spokesperson around the world’ Is the truth really that painful?” he wrote.
The US’ reason for designating me is that I am Iran’s “primary spokesperson around the world”
Is the truth really that painful?
It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran.
Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) July 31, 2019
Officials in Iran rallied around the foreign minister on Thursday.
“America is not only afraid of Iran’s missiles but also of Iran talking,” Abbas Ali Kadkhodayi, spokesman for Iran’s law-vetting Guardian Council, said on Twitter.
“Sanctioning @JZarif means America’s claim of freedom of speech is false. Sanctioning Zarif means the fall of the Statue of Liberty.”
In Tehran, Abbas Mousavi, foreign ministry spokesman, reacted by pointing at what he called U.S. “peak stupidity” on the matter.
“The peak of stupidity and inconsistency of America’s leaders is at a point where they don’t recognise Dr Zarif as being influential in Iran’s policy but with the ultimate ignorance they sanction him! The Americans have a strong fear of the logic of Dr Zarif and his negotiating skills,” Mousavi wrote on social media.
AFP contributed to this story