"They (Americans) are resorting to childish behaviour... Maybe there's no better way to describe (the sanctions) but childish. They were claiming every day 'We want to talk, with no preconditions' ...and then they sanction the foreign minister. This means that they have lost the power of rational thought".
Rouhani suggested that the move showed Washington was "afraid" of the top Iranian diplomat,
"They are afraid of our foreign minister's interviews. It is completely clear that the foundations of the White House have been shaken by the words and logic of an informed, devoted and diplomatic individual", the president said in a televised speech, alluding to a series of interviews Zarif gave to foreign media outlets.
His remarks echoed a comment by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi, who earlier said that Washington feared Zarif's negotiating skills.
"The peak of stupidity and inconsistency of America's leaders is at a point where they don't recognize Dr Zarif as being influential in Iran's policy but with the ultimate ignorance they sanction him! The Americans have a strong fear of the logic of Dr Zarif and his negotiating skills", Mousavi said.
The US Department of the Treasury announced on Wednesday that Washington had introduced sanctions against Zarif, while a senior administration official claimed that the United States would not recongise Zarif's role in potential negotiations of a new nuclear agreement with Tehran.
"Zarif implements the reckless agenda of Iran's supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), and is the regime's primary spokesperson around the world. The United States is sending a clear message to the Iranian regime that its recent behaviour is completely unacceptable", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
Reacting to the move, the foreign minister sarcastically tweeted, "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"— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) 31 июля 2019 г.
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.
In late July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told WFTV 9 that President Donald Trump wanted to talk with Iran without preconditions, but also wanted to change Tehran's "behaviour".
"The president has said that he’s happy to speak with the ayatollah, the leadership in Iran on the phone with no preconditions. The president firmly believes that talking and having these diplomatic exchanges to avoiding military conflict is the objective. But it doesn’t change the outcome we’re looking for", Pompeo said.
US-Iran relations have been tense since Washington unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran in May 2018 and reinstated all sanctions against the Islamic Republic with a stated goal to bring its oil exports to zero.
In May 2019, Iran, for its part, announced a decision to partially scale back on its voluntary obligations under the nuclear deal and gave the remaining signatories - France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and the European Union - 60 days to salvage the agreement by facilitating oil exports and trade with Iran.
After the deadline expired, Tehran stated that it would begin enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 percent level set by the deal and warned it would gradually abandon its nuclear commitments every 60 days.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, was signed in 2015 by Iran and the P5+1 nations — Russia, the US, China, France, the UK plus Germany — after years of tense negotiations. The multilateral accord sought to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for the gradual lifting of economic sanctions on Tehran.