Zarif was the Iranian representative who engaged in talks with former Secretary of State John Kerry to come up with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
In late June, the U.S. also imposed sanctions on Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Husseini Khamenei.
This move comes amid escalating tensions between the two countries. In late June, Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone. President Donald Trump said that he was close to launching a retaliatory strike against Iran, but called it off "10 minutes before the strike" after he realized that there would be more than 100 Iranian casualties.
In July, the U.S. Navy shot down an Iranian drone that came "within a threatening range" in the crucial Strait of Hormuz. This is the same strait in which the British Navy foiled an initial attempt by the Iranians to seize a U.K. oil tanker, only to have another British tanker seized around a week later.
Zarif has responded
In a tweet, Zarif said, "The US' reason for designating me is that I am Iran's 'primary spokesperson around the world[.]' Is the truth really that painful? It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran. Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda."
The US' reason for designating me is that I am Iran's "primary spokesperson around the world" Is the truth really t… https://t.co/aW5RExL50y— Javad Zarif (@Javad Zarif) 1564605223.0
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has condemned this move. In a news release of her own, she said, "This doesn't move us closer to peace, it further escalates an already tense situation." She also called Zarif "a capable diplomat" whom she's known "for more than 15 years."