We detailed days ago how last month Trump secretly reached out to Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, inviting him for direct talks at the White House via a sit down in New York with Sen. Rand Paul.
Zarif has now confirmed that he was sanctioned by the US Treasury last Wednesday specifically as retribution for rebuffing Trump's request. "On my trip to New York, I was told that I would be sanctioned within two weeks unless I accepted the offer, which I fortunately did not accept," he said at a Monday press conference.
A journalist for The New Yorker had first revealed late last Friday that during an hour long meeting with Trump's recently tapped intermediary with Iran, Sen. Paul, Zarif expressed that he could not meet with Trump without approval from Tehran.
After discussing various ideas related to convincing the White House that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, and ways to restart negotiations on equal footing, Zarif is reported to have in the end rejected the unprecedented invitation to meet with Trump after expressing concerns that it would be little more than a photo opportunity.
Zarif described Monday that he had met with multiple senators and congressmen on his latest UN trip, which he did not name due to the sensitivity of their diplomatic discussions.
Addressing the sanctions, Zarif said that "boycotting a country's foreign minister means that your negotiations fell short," and further that US desperation is distancing the possibility of a diplomatic track.
Iran foreign minister Zarif says he was told in New York that if he doesn’t accept Trump’s invitation to meet him at the White House, he will be sanctioned in two weeks. He adds: “fortunately I didn’t accept it and I was sanctioned”.pic.twitter.com/VZgIEXk8hf— Negar Mortazavi (@NegarMortazavi) August 5, 2019
"The United States has not won any war in modern times and that is why they were forced to use sanctions and boycotts against Iranian institutions and organizations," he added.
It's notable that despite new reports this week confirming that Iran's military seized a third tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on July 31, US administration officials have been relatively quiet compared to the near daily saber rattling which marked last month's soaring tensions. It appears yet further evidence that the White House has backed off its hard line position, not wanting to paint itself too much in a corner where the only "option" remains war.
Given Zarif rejected the oval office invitation, which reportedly came late last month, Tehran is intent on not bowing to Trump's pressure towards negotiating "a better deal" by coming back to the table. Iran's position has always been that it in good faith accepted and is in accord with the 2015 JCPOA, but that Washington unilaterally reneged on its commitments.