Zarif, in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Television, also accused European countries that are part of the agreement of failing to carry out their own commitments under the deal and after the US withdrawal.
He said promises to allow Iran to sell oil and repatriate money have failed to materialize.
Addressing US allegations that Iran has never given up its goal of building nuclear weapons, Zarif said Iran has the technical ability to pursue them “very rapidly” but “we’re not going to” because Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei made a “religious commitment” that they are forbidden.
“If we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we could have built it a long time ago,” said Zarif, who was in New York to address a United Nations meeting.
Nevertheless, Zarif signaled that Iran will continue to pursue the Islamic Republic’s rights under the accord to respond to the US withdrawal and failed European efforts to deliver promised benefits to the Iranian economy.
“Yeah, we will continue with the steps, and these steps are legal, in line with the agreement,” Zarif said, when asked about the likelihood of continuing uranium enrichment.
He also expressed skepticism of renegotiating the accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to include talks on Iran’s missile program.
“You don’t buy a horse twice,” he said.
Addressing US accusations that Tehran “fuels instability” across the Mideast, Zarif said the primary culprits for regional turmoil are its rivals Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who buy billions of dollars in weapons from the US.
Dismissing an issue US officials have cited in recent days, Zarif said that under no circumstances could Iran give up its missiles given the arms buildup by its enemies in the region.
Asked whether there’s a diplomatic solution to US-Iran tensions, Zarif suggested that President Hassan Rouhani’s government is drawing lessons from Trump’s threats against Mexico over trade and immigration and that it was clear to Tehran that Washington would keep asking for more even if the two parties were to eventually strike a new deal.
“After renegotiating NAFTA he raised a new demand and he tried to push Mexicans into giving in a bit more,” Zarif said. “So he always believes, it seems, that ‘What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.”’
Zarif rejected the idea that Iran is waiting for next year’s US election to put a Democratic president in office who might be open to reentering the nuclear deal.
“No country in their right mind would make their foreign policy based on results they don’t have any control over,” he said. He went on to give Trump a “better than 50% chance” of winning reelection.
In May 2018, US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the JCPOA.
Iran and the remaining parties launched talks to save the JCPOA after the US withdrawal, but the three EU parties to the deal (France, Britain, and Germany) have failed to ensure Iran’s economic interests.
The EU’s inaction forced Tehran to stop honoring certain commitments to the nuclear deal, including a rise in the stockpile of enriched uranium.
Iran maintains that the new measures are not designed to harm the JCPOA but to save the accord by creating a balance in the commitments.