In an exclusive interview with ABC news on Sunday, Zarif said Washington’s maximum pressure policy “targets ordinary Iranian people” and that Iran will respond in self- defense.
“If the United States decides to cause so much pain on the Iranian people by imposing economic warfare, by engaging in economic terrorism against Iran, then there will be consequences,” he said without elaboration.
“We don’t differentiate between economic war and military war,” Zarif added.
“The US is engaged in war against us, and a war is painful to our participants. We have a very clear notion that in a war, nobody wins. In a war, everybody loses, [but] the loss of some will be greater than the loss of others.”
Asked if the consequences he was referring to was the equivalent of the phrase used by American officials that “all options are on the table,” Zarif said, “All options are on the table belongs to the time when the use of force was legal, and that is about 100 years ago.”
“What we say is that we exercise our self-defense. Self-defense is allowed. President Trump has announced that he is engaged in a war and economic war against Iran, and we have an obligation to defend our people against that economic war,” Zarif explained.
Zarif stressed that Trump will fail to “achieve his policy objectives through pressure on the Iranians.”
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The foreign minister also noted that Trump’s business experience in real estate — as described in his 1987 book, “Trump: The Art of the Deal” — will not work with Iran.
“This may work in a real estate market. It does not work in dealing with Iran,” he said. “It may work even with in dealing with other countries, for a brief period, not for long term, but it doesn’t work with Iran for a brief period, or in medium or long.”
Last month, the Trump administration ordered a further military buildup in the Middle East to counter unspecified “threats” from Iran, shortly after toughening oil sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Since then, the US president has tempered his harsh rhetoric with an offer to hold talks with Iran.
Foreign Minister Zarif said the prospects of potential talks with the US are “not very likely, because talking is the continuation of the process of pressure.”
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He also warned the US president to avoid threatening Iranians, advising him to try “respect” as it is “the only thing that works with Iran.”
“I’ve said it before, threats against Iran never work,” he said. “Never threaten an Iranian. Try respect. That may work.”
Zarif further dismissed Washington’s claims that there was a new Iranian threat to the region, saying it was the US Navy’s presence that was destabilizing.
“We call this place the Persian Gulf for a reason,” said Zarif. “It’s next to us. We have a right to defend ourselves.”
“Just imagine if Iran were to come to California coast [or the] Florida coast,” he added. “How do you feel? How would you treat that? The United States is sending nuclear ships to our waters, to our vicinity.”
Zarif cautioned that the Islamic Republic would take a page from the Trump administration’s playbook in response to the escalation of tensions in the region.
“I like to keep President Trump guessing because he likes everybody in the world to keep on guessing about what is happening in the United States,” said Zarif.