Iran deal

Expert Voices

U.S. sanctions on Iran are becoming an end, not a means

Mohammad Zarif seated at a conference table
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration's decision to put Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s mellifluous foreign minister, on the Treasury Department’s sanctions list makes clear that the means of pressure and sanctions have increasingly become the end goal of the U.S.' Iran policy.

The big picture: When President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal last May, he insisted he could negotiate a much better agreement. More than a year later, however, the U.S. is no closer to such talks, dangers across the Middle East have escalated and the man who would have led Iran's negotiations has been sidelined — at least from the Trump administration's point of view.

Trump administration sanctions Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif

Javad Zarif. Photo: Yuri CO/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, with a senior administration official telling reporters Zarif should not be treated internationally as a "credible" interlocutor.

Why it matters: As a senior administration official noted on a call with reporters announcing the decision, Zarif is "the international face" of Iran's government and played a central role in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal, which the U.S. withdrew from in May 2018. This seems to be another signal from the Trump administration that punishing Iran is a higher priority than coming to a new deal.