WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration will hold off on imposing sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday evening.
The U.S. Treasury Department had been expected to sanction Zarif as part of the U.S. crackdown on Iran and its top officials following the attacks last month on two tankers near the Strait of Hormuz and the shooting down of an American drone by the Islamic Republic. President Donald Trump abruptly called off a plan for strikes against Iran for shooting down the drone.
It was unclear what was behind the decision to put off sanctions against Zarif, which was reported by Reuters earlier on Thursday, or if the penalties might actually be imposed in the near future.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump said, "Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!"
The U.S. has sanctioned Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and eight military commanders.
Zarif, who has been Iran's foreign minister since 2013, was the lead negotiator in the multi-party nuclear accord reached in 2015 under the Obama administration that Trump has since rejected.
On June 24, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. would impose financial restrictions on Zarif "later this week." Typically, the U.S. doesn't announce sanctions in advance against individuals so they don't hide assets before penalties take effect.
With more than 80% of Iran's economy already under sanctions, the penalties against Khamenei and the threat that Zarif would be slapped as well were largely symbolic, but they prompted Iran to say that the path to a diplomatic solution with the U.S. had been closed.
Zarif, who received his bachelor's and advanced degrees at U.S. universities, told The New York Times earlier this month that little was at stake for him even if he were sanctioned. "I personally do not even have a bank account outside Iran," he said.
A State Department representative declined to comment on the matter.
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