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Exclusive: U.S. will not blacklist Iran's foreign minister, for now

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Exclusive: U.S. will not blacklist Iran's foreign minister, for now

By Jonathan Landay, Lesley Wroughton and Arshad Mohammed

 

2019-07-11T220445Z_1_LYNXNPEF6A25S_RTROPTP_4_JAPAN-IRAN-ZARIF.JPG

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono (not in the picture) in Tokyo, Japan, May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has decided not to impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for now, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday, in a sign Washington may be holding a door open for diplomacy.

 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on June 24 had said Zarif would be blacklisted that week, an unusual public stance because the United States typically does not preview such decisions to keep its targets from moving assets out of U.S. jurisdiction.

 

Blacklisting Iran's chief negotiator would also be unusual because it could impede any U.S. effort to use diplomacy to resolve its disagreements with Tehran over Iran's nuclear programme, regional activities and missile testing.

 

The sources did not give specific reasons for the decision, which came after two months in which U.S.-Iranian tensions have soared because of attacks on tankers in the Gulf that the United States blames on Iran, despite its denials, andIran's downing of a U.S. drone that prompted preparations for a U.S. retaliatory air strike that was called off minutes before it was due to hit.

 

"Cooler heads prevailed. We ... saw it as not necessarily helpful," said one source familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had opposed designating Zarif "for the time being."

 

In a sign of how close Washington came to taking action, the U.S. Treasury internally circulated a draft press release announcing sanctions on the Iranian foreign minister.

 

Zarif is expected to attend a ministerial meeting at the United Nations next week on sustainable development goals, which aim to tackle issues including conflict, hunger, gender equality and climate change by 2030.

 

To do so, the United States would have to grant him a visa, another sign Washington is holding off on sanctions for now.

 

ZARIF SAYS HE HAS NO U.S. ASSETS

Relations have deteriorated since U.S. President Donald Trump last year unilaterally withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, and his early May decision to use U.S. sanctions to try to eliminate Iran's oil exports entirely.

 

Trump's move to cut off Iran's oil sales led Tehran to start violating parts of the nuclear pact, which was designed to limit its ability to develop weapons in return for relief from economic sanctions that had crippled its economy.

 

Asked why Zarif had yet to be sanctioned, a Treasury spokesman referred to a comment on Tuesday by a senior Trump administration official who told reporters: "We're obviously exploring our various avenues for additional sanctions against Tehran. Obviously, Foreign Minister Zarif is a figure of key interest and we'll update you ... as we have more information."

 

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the decision.

 

The department's spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Thursday Washington wants a diplomatic resolution and repeated Trump's comment that he is willing to meet Iran "without preconditions."

 

"We seek a diplomatic solution," she told reporters. "We have asked our allies to ask Iran to deescalate the situation, not to harass American allies or interests, not to terrorise the region."

 

Mnuchin did not say what sanctions would hit Zarif. On the day he spoke, he was briefing reporters on U.S. sanctions that aimed to block Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, from access to the U.S. financial system or assets under U.S. jurisdiction.

 

On July 4, the New York Times quoted Zarif as saying in an email that he did not own any property or have any bank accounts outside Iran. "So I have no personal problem with possible sanctions," he said.

 

'WE SEEK A DIPLOMATIC SOLUTION'

Trump has said he is open to negotiating with Iran. However, former U.S. officials said they see no signs his administration is interested in talks on terms other than Iran's capitulation to U.S. demands.

 

As laid out by Pompeo last year, these include Tehran ending uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fissile material for atomic bombs; giving U.N. nuclear inspectors total access to sites throughout the country; releasing U.S. citizens held in Iran and withdrawing Iranian forces from Syria.

 

The former officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a decision not to sanction Zarif could be a hint Washington wants to preserve the option of diplomacy even if it appears unlikely for now.

 

Trump administration officials seem particularly hostile to Zarif, possibly because of his use of Twitter to taunt them as a "B-team" of second-raters who "despise diplomacy, and thirst for war."

 

If Washington wanted to get into a negotiation with Tehran, it could send other conciliatory signals.

 

One would be to allow a quiet stabilization of Iran's oil exports, which stood at 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) before Trump abandoned the deal and have since fallen to about 300,000 bpd since Trump's May decision to try to drive them to zero.

 

Rather than renew sanctions waivers to allow nations such as China and India to keep buying Iran's oil, Washington could just turn a blind eye to continued purchases, the former U.S. officials said.

 

That seems unlikely after British Royal Marines seized the Grace 1 supertanker off the coast of Gibraltar last week amid accusations that it had broken sanctions by carrying Iranian oil to Syria.

 

Another possible hint would be for the Trump administration to renew waivers - which expire in early August - that allow China, Russia and European nations to pursue nuclear nonproliferation projects with Iran.

 

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay, Lesley Wroughton and Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Mary Milliken and James Dalgleish)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-07-12

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28 minutes ago, webfact said:

in a sign Washington may be holding a door open for diplomacy.

Or perhaps a sign that the man at the top has boxed himself in a little bit too tight on this dispute.

"Damned if you do, damned if you don't".

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1 hour ago, neeray said:

Or perhaps a sign that the man at the top has boxed himself in a little bit too tight on this dispute.

"Damned if you do, damned if you don't".

Yep he has no balls.

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2 hours ago, neeray said:

Or perhaps a sign that the man at the top has boxed himself in a little bit too tight on this dispute.

"Damned if you do, damned if you don't".

 

With regard to high profile sanctions, there's usually some sort of qualifying/warning statements ahead. This was the case before sanctions targeting the IRGC or entities controlled by khamenei. In both cases, reports that the USA was "mulling" (or some-such) the issue preceded sanctions materializing. 

 

I think the USA simply marks the next step ahead, that's all.

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8 hours ago, webfact said:

The department's spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Thursday Washington wants a diplomatic resolution and repeated Trump's comment that he is willing to meet Iran "without preconditions."

I just love this “preconditions” statement.

 

there will be no “preconditions” on a meeting, but there will be significant consequences if you do not meet... and if or when you do meet, there will be a ton of conditions on any actual forward movement.

 

Or... progress forward will be very conditional, but there are no preconditions on finding out exactly what those conditions are, and whilst you decide on wether or not you want to find out exactly what conditions you must agree to, we will continue to wage a war of economic terrorism against your people.

 

meanwhile, Iran is saying that they will not negotiate with terrorists, but that they will instigate diplomatic or practicable  moves in order to protect themselves from terrorism.

 

the trump certainly has turned the world upside down, and are now arrogantly suggesting that by not shutting the door to one of, if not the last Iranian diplomat, that they are being reasonable.... but it’s really more akin to a hostage taker refusing to talk to hostage negotiators, which is just plain trump of the hostage takers.

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9 hours ago, webfact said:

Trump administration officials seem particularly hostile to Zarif, possibly because of his use of Twitter to taunt them as a "B-team" of second-raters who "despise diplomacy, and thirst for war."

 

Meanwhile, in other news.... 

9 hours ago, webfact said:

Trump administration officials seem particularly hostile to

.... the UK ambassador....

9 hours ago, webfact said:

possibly because of his use of 

.... the truth in diplomatic reports of the....

9 hours ago, webfact said:

Trump administration

 

Lmao.... personally, I reckon both Zarif and Sir Kim have been remarkably diplomatic in their individual understatements of the trump, and should be congratulated on their restraint 

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5 hours ago, Srikcir said:

Making threats against another party if it doesn't compromise for an agreement is not a path to successful, mutually beneficial negotiations. It instead energizes the other party to further resistance and greater demands proportional to the level of threats (whether real or imaginary). This has been the reaction of China to Trump's negotiation style and predictably there has been no progress.

Trump's style thus far has been a dead end to a peaceful resolution.

 

Even if one accepts the above premise, it still doesn't have much to do with what I posted.

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In the real world, Trump unilaterally decided to destroy the well-functioning nuclear agreement (JCPOA), with ludicrous charges accepted by virtually no one with the slightest credibility, and to impose extremely harsh sanctions designed to punish the Iranian people and undermine the economy.

The charges against Iran resonate through the media echo chamber with little effort to assess the validity of the accusations — which hardly withstand analysis. Whatever one thinks of Iranian international behavior, by the miserable standards of U.S. allies in the region — not to speak of the U.S. itself — it is not much of a competitor in the rogue state derby.

The strange ( according to Trumpism) idea of the founders that one might have “decent respect to the opinions of mankind” has long vanished, and the pained bleatings of the world pass in silence. 

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55 minutes ago, expatfromwyoming said:

In the real world, Trump unilaterally decided to destroy the well-functioning nuclear agreement (JCPOA), with ludicrous charges accepted by virtually no one with the slightest credibility, and to impose extremely harsh sanctions designed to punish the Iranian people and undermine the economy.

The charges against Iran resonate through the media echo chamber with little effort to assess the validity of the accusations — which hardly withstand analysis. Whatever one thinks of Iranian international behavior, by the miserable standards of U.S. allies in the region — not to speak of the U.S. itself — it is not much of a competitor in the rogue state derby.

The strange ( according to Trumpism) idea of the founders that one might have “decent respect to the opinions of mankind” has long vanished, and the pained bleatings of the world pass in silence. 

 

I don't think the USA sanctions were designed to "punish" the Iranian people. Undeniably, the Iranian people suffer as a consequence, but that's not quite the same thing.

 

As for claiming that the "charges against Iran resonate through the media echo chamber with little effort to assess the validity of the accusation" - guess it would depend which media one follows. I think the issue is more to do with Trump making so many bogus statements, using half-truths and outright lies, that by now this fails to generate the same responses as earlier in his presidency.

 

You keep using the "rogue" term on many posts. Mr. Montoya would probably have something to say about that.

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