Zarif was targeted by the Trump administration this week, imposing punitive financial sanctions on him in an effort to further pressure Iran to end its activities in the Persian Gulf region.
The move to penalize Zarif follows Trump’s earlier executive order placing sanctions on Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But just last month, the Trump administration was seeking to have a meeting with Zarif, an architect of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal who’s perceived as a more moderate figure in the Islamic Republic, the New Yorker reported Friday.
The invitation was made by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, reportedly with Trump’s blessing, during a meeting with the top Iranian diplomat in New York on July 15. Just a day before, Paul met with Trump to discuss Iran while playing golf.
But the White House meeting didn’t materialize as Zarif told the Kentucky senator that he had to get approval from Tehran for such a meeting and expressed concerns that it would become just a photo opportunity rather a productive discussion regarding the tensions in the region, the magazine reported.
The Iranian regime ultimately decided against the meeting.
Paul, a staunch anti-interventionist, reportedly spoke with Zarif about the recent tensions that brought Washington and Tehran to the brink of war.
The Iranian diplomat, according to the report, told the senator his thoughts on how to end the deadlock over the nuclear agreement, with Iran now openly exceeding limits on its nuclear activities, and how to ease some of Trump’s fears of the regime’s actions.
He reportedly suggested Iran could pass into law a fatwa issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2003 and 2010 banning the production and use of nuclear weapons.
Zarif also said Iran could ratify the Additional Protocol of the nuclear agreement that allows inspectors to “to conduct complimentary access to any location in Iran," the New Yorker reported.
The magazine's story came just a day before Zarif said the Islamic Republic will further reduce its commitments under the nuclear agreement, Reuters reported, citing parliamentary news agency ICANA.
“The third step in reducing commitments to [the nuclear deal] will be implemented in the current situation,” Zarif said on Saturday.
“We have said that if [the deal] is not completely implemented by others then we will also implement it in the same incomplete manner. And, of course, all of our actions have been within the framework of [the deal],” he said.
In recent months, tensions were high between Washington and Tehran after Iran attacked oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz and later shot down an unmanned American drone.
The attack on the drone prompted Trump to order military strikes on the regime – only canceling them at the last minute over concerns of potential casualties on the Iranian side.
Iran also seized a British tanker earlier this month. The regime said the seizure was a response to British authorities seizing an Iranian tanker on route to Syria, though the U.K. says the tanker was seized because it carried oil and was in violation of sanctions against the Syrian regime.