Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif: Trump's "bully" behavior will prompt backlash

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says President Trump's threat of sanctions against European countries continuing to do business in Iran is "unprecedented," comparing his behavior to that of a "bully." He also said it's "still a possibility" that Iran could restart its nuclear program.

"The United States is asking countries to violate international law, and is telling countries and companies that if they observe the law they'll be punished," Zarif told CBS News' John Dickerson in an interview on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week. "This is probably unprecedented, even for a bully, in a town to go to the sheriff's office and tell them, 'If you try not to drop people you are going to be punished.'"

Mr. Trump has previously threatened that "anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the U.S." and imposed new sanctions on the country after withdrawing the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Zarif said the U.S. continues to push allies to act in a "lawless way," which Zarif warned was unsustainable.

"This policy is going to have a backlash. The international community is not going to accept somebody to come and just [give] orders," the foreign minister said. "We will continue to work with the Europeans. Certainly some European companies have withdrawn from Iran because of the fear of punishment by the United States."

Zarif said Mr. Trump, who chaired a U.N. Security Council meeting last week on nonproliferation, has now isolated the U.S. by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. 

"I think it's not a sign of strength. He's making all those statements. He convened a meeting of the Security Council to bash Iran, and at the end of the day 14 out of 15 members of the Security Council bashed his decision to walk away from JCPOA. So unfortunately the United States has managed to isolate itself in the world," Zarif said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal's formal name. 

Zarif maintained that Iran has kept up its end of the 2015 Iran deal, specifically by not continuing to build out their nuclear program. 

"The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with verification of what we do, has reported twice since President Trump left the JCPOA that Iran has remained faithful," Zarif said.

However, he suggested that there is "still a possibility" that Iran could resume nuclear activity at much greater speeds in response to Mr. Trump's pull out of the deal. Zarif had warned on "Face the Nation" in April that such a response could be in the cards if the U.S. resumed sanctions against his country. 

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital