By contrast, Zarif said during his years of negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal, he and former Secretary of State John Kerry "probably" spent more time with each other "than with anybody else". On Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was supposed to certify Iranian compliance again. Talking points were sent to columnists. Senior administration officials briefed analysts on a conference call.
The new sanctions are part of a larger White House effort to counter Iran's massive military buildup and rogue militant activities across the Middle East, specifically in Syria.
There was just one problem: Donald Trump. What's more, Iran's regional behavior has only been getting worse since his inauguration.
The senior official told reporters the White House believes Iran remains one of the most risky governments, and cited as evidence Tehran's support for terrorism, continuing hostility to Israel, cyber attacks against the United States and numerous human rights abuses. The President is obliged to notify the Congress of the implementation of the agreement every 90 days. On Saturday, Iran blamed Trump's "arbitrary and conflicting policies" for global security threats.
Trump denounced the deal during his campaign and promised to renegotiate it and get tough on Iran.
The problem with that, Lake notes, is that neither Congress, the White House, nor the other seven signatories of the agreement were prepared for such a move, administration officials said. That assessment carries no legal force, while Trump's certification that Iran is technically complying clears the way for sanctions to remain lifted. Instead, Tehran has argued that the USA hasn't lived up to its end of the bargain by pressing European allies not to do business with Iran.
More significantly perhaps, New Delhi will be anxious about the potential impact of renewed US-Iran hostilities on its plans for co-development of Chabahar port in Iran that is key to India's push for strategic and trade links into landlocked Afghanistan and beyond into Central Asia.
As a candidate, he vowed to "rip up" the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which was brokered by the United States with five other countries and the European Union.
There was no immediate response from Iran to Tuesday's sanctions announcement. In some ways this is not surprising.
For now, it's worth watching what Trump administration officials say about the agreement.
In making the certification, an official said, "the secretary of state and the president intend to emphasize that Iran remains one of the most unsafe threats to US interests and to regional stability, and to highlight the range of malign activities". So Iran will have its money and they'll be free to develop a nuclear weapon if they want to-all without having to go to the trouble of breaking the treaty themselves. Gen. Mohammad Baqeri, the chief of staff for Iran's armed forces, said in Sepah News, an official news site of the Guards. He pointed to Trump's speech at the G-20 summit last month in which he dissuaded foreign leaders from investing in Iran, something Zarif said undermined the spirit of the agreement.
"There are no communications between myself and Secretary Tillerson", Zarif said at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a well known dissembler.
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