Transcript: Mohammad Javad Zarif on "Face the Nation," April 22, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who spent two years negotiating the Iran nuclear deal and has warned against President Trump's threatened pullout, sat down for an interview with "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan.

A transcript of the portion of the interview that aired Sunday, April 22, 2018, is below.


MARGARET BRENNAN: You said that if the U.S. pulls out the outcome will be "unpleasant." What did you mean by that? 

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: It will lead to U.S. isolation in the international community. Everybody has advised the administration that this is not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the United States and withdrawing from it would be seen by the international community as a- an indication that the United States is not a reliable partner. Iran has many options and those options are not pleasant.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If the U.S. pulls out of the nuclear deal will Iran continue to abide by its terms?

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: If the benefits of the deal for Iran start to diminish then there is no reason for Iran to remain in the deal. Because it's not acceptable for us to have a one sided agreement.

MARGARET BRENNAN: If the U.S. and its allies come to their own agreement on the sidelines to address some of the things that President Trump is concerned about. Will you accept that?

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: No. Because what is important is for the Europeans to bring the United States into compliance because Iran has been in compliance with the deal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As you've said, the President in your view is unpredictable and unreliable. Are you saying no power, North Korea or anyone else, will come to an agreement with America if they break this?

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: Well, countries will make their own decisions. But obviously this would be a very bad precedent if the United States sends this message to the international community that the length or the duration of any agreement would depend on the duration of the presidency. That would mean people will at least think twice before they start negotiating with the United States--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But it sounds like--

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: --Because negotiations involve give and take. And people will not be prepared to give if the take is only temporary.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It sounds like you're saying it's, it's President Trump's move on this. You're going to see what he does on May 12th if he puts sanctions back on Iran and then you'll decide what the consequences will be.

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: No, we have put a number of options for ourselves and those options are ready, including options that would involve resuming at a much greater speed our nuclear activities. And those are all envisioned within the deal. And those options are ready to be implemented and we would make the necessary decision when we see fit.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're ready to restart your nuclear program if President Trump puts sanctions back on Iran, even if the rest of the world says don't do this?

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: Obviously the rest of the world cannot ask us to unilaterally and one sidedly implement a deal that has already been broken.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Trump offered to meet with your president, President Rouhani, at the United Nations. And Iran said no.

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: He made a-- very negative and insulting speech before the General Assembly and while he was making that speech they approached us. And we believe that the first requirement for any bilateral meeting is mutual respect and if the president is not prepared to provide that exercise, that mutual respect, then a meeting would not produce any positive results.

MARGARET BRENNAN: CIA Director Mike Pompeo was a very harsh critic of this deal when he was in Congress. He is very close to the President. Now he's the nominee to become Secretary of State. Do you read his nomination as a sign this deal is done?

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: Well, every indication that the United States sending: appointments, statements indicate to us and the international community that the United States is not serious about its international obligations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you be able to work with him?

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: Well as I said, the requirement for any international engagement is mutual respect. We would have to wait and see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Pompeo has spoken in the past about striking Iran. John Bolton, the president's new national security advisor has said the goal should be regime change in your country. Do you think that as national security advisors they're going to be honest brokers with the president presenting him with these diplomatic options?

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: Is that a diplomatic option? I think that has been--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well that's what I'm saying though, are they-- does this--their appointments make military confrontation more likely or do you still see the possibility to negotiate?

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: Well, I think the United States has never abandoned the idea of regime change in Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Under the existing deal, Iran has promised to stay more than one year away from a so-called break out period--

(CROSSTALK)

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: And that's a U.S. calculation, it's not any promise that we have made because we never wanted to produce a bomb. And now Mr. Pompeo obviously has said that in his testimony, in Congress that Iran was never racing towards a bomb and it will not be racing towards a bomb. It's a late admission but better late than never.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But to the point though, if it is such a settled issue why not make another pledge saying sure -

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: Why should we?

MARGARET BRENNAN: After the end of this deal. We still won't want to build a bomb.

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: Why should we? Why should we? There was- there was a negotiation....And there was an agreement that was reached after hours upon hours of negotiations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you won't say -

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: We cannot -

MARGARET BRENNAN: - in the future we don't intend to build a bomb and we will sign something saying that?

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: That's - that's very clear. It is in the - in the nuclear agreement.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It's not clear to President Trump, though. (CROSSTALK) This is one of the things he's most concerned about, the sunset clause specifically.

FOREIGN MINISTER JAVAD ZARIF: Three lines down the preface to the agreement is Iran commits itself never to develop a nuclear weapon. I mean you don't - you don't need even to read the entire 150 pages of the- of the deal, just read the first three lines and it's there, there is no sunset to the fact that Iran will never seek nuclear weapons.