Transcript: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on "Face the Nation," Sept. 30, 2018

The following is a transcript of the interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif that aired Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  

JOHN DICKERSON: While Washington was captivated by the Kavanaugh hearings this week, in New York, a different drama was unfolding at the annual United Nations General Assembly.  We spoke with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif about how relations between the US and Iran have gone from bad to worse since President Trump quit the Iran nuclear deal. When Margaret Brennan spoke to Zarif earlier this year before that happened, he had suggested that if Mr. Trump were to pull out, Iran might resume their nuclear program at a greater speed.  


FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: It's still- That's still a possibility.

JOHN DICKERSON: But it hasn't happened yet?

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: It hasn't happened yet because Europeans have been working with us in order to make sure that Iran enjoys the economic dividends of the nuclear agreement. And we will be working with the Europeans. We've made good progress

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me just make sure, after President Trump left the JCPOA, Iran did nothing additional with respect to building a nuclear program?


JOHN DICKERSON: The U.S. is threatening those European countries and saying if you continue to do business with Iran you won't be able to do business with the United States. Can they sustain a relationship with Iran under that kind of pressure from the United States?

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: 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. This is probably unprecedented. Even for a bully i-in-in a town to go to the sheriff's office and tell- tell them if you try not to rob people you are going to be punished.

JOHN DICKERSON: You think the President Trump is a bully?

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: Well. I think the behavior is one. The problem is the United States is pushing people to act in a lawless way. I don't think it's going to be sustainable. This policy is going to have a backlash. The international community is not going to accept somebody to come and just- orders. 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 Certainly some European companies have withdrawn from Iran because of the fear of punishment by the United States

JOHN DICKERSON: What- what faith did they give you that they're going to hang with Iran under the pressure?

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: The verbal response has been positive. Now we have to see that in operation. And they are promising us that before the second batch of sanctions go into-into force, they will have something available to-to address the problems. We will see.


JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to Face the Nation. We continue our conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif...and the deteriorating relations between the US and Iran.

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: he says he wants to talk to President Rouhani. Tomorrow he says President Rouhani is a corrupt dictator -

JOHN DICKERSON: Will they ever talk?

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: Then he says he- he's a lovely man. Then he says we have asked to talk and he is not prepared to talk. So let's be serious -

JOHN DICKERSON: Well let's- b-but.  You know. You've seen what happened with North Korea. He said a number of very bombastic things and now there is talks and there's you know -

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: But there's not-- there is no outcome. There's some photo opportunities.

JOHN DICKERSON: Is there any chance that he'd--


JOHN DICKERSON: --that Rouhani and President Trump--

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: No. Until he decides- first of all, President Trump has not decided whether he wants to meet, not meet, dictator, lovely man- whichever- whichever it is. But, until the United States shows that it's respectable, trustworthy partner in negotiations- negotiations are not based on trust. Negotiations on based on- are based on respect, based on a- an expectation that the other side will comply with its decisions that it's undertaken under the negotiations.

JOHN DICKERSON: What do you make of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo?

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: What should I make of him? He's- he's made all the wrong moves against Iran. And- and I believe he has made major mistakes about our region. I believe- I mean seriously. I believe the United States needs to review its policy with regard to our region.

JOHN DICKERSON: President Trump targeted Iran repeatedly in his remarks to the U.N. General Assembly.

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: 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.

JOHN DICKERSON: President Rouhani said that President Trump has tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition. What does that mean?

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: Well I mean- the xenophobic tendencies that he has exhibited, the wall, the Muslim ban - ban on Iranians traveling to the United States. All of these are rem-I mean reminiscent of the type of mentality.

JOHN DICKERSON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as you know responded quite forcefully to that in an interview with Norah O'Donnell.

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: He said always forceful, but forceful does not mean logical.

JOHN DICKERSON: He said, "for a Holocaust denying country that is threatening Israel to compare the United States or its leader to Nazis is among the most outrageous things I have ever heard."

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: As I said, being forceful is not being logical. Iran- has stated very clearly, we reject the killing of innocent people no matter what the numbers, no matter by who. We have--

JOHN DICKERSON: You're talking about the Holocaust now?


JOHN DICKERSON Yes. And the Holocaust happened--


JOHN DICKERSON: --and 6 million Jews died?  

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: Of- of- of course it did. And a huge number of people died - a huge number of innocent people who died. But- it does not justify depriving others of their homeland. It does- it does not justify building settlements in the territory of other people. It does not justify violating on mass the rights of Palestinians. The Holocaust cannot be used as a justification for an apartheid policy in Palestine.

JOHN DICKERSON: You have talked about mutual respect, if there's ever going to be conversations with the United States and Iran again. When President Rouhani says that President Trump has the tendencies of the Nazis who are responsible for killing so many innocent Jews, how can you have mutual respect when you make -

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: I mean if you-If you just put the insults that President Trump has had against Iran. Whatever President Rouhani says cannot even get close to what he has done with us. Even in his speech to the-to the General Assembly.

JOHN DICKERSON: Even when he compares him to the organization that killed six million Jews-innocent Jews?

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: Well- well he's the man who separated children from their mothers.

JOHN DICKERSON: But it was not the incineration of six million people because of their religion.

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: And he didn't call him such he said these are behavior exhibiting the same type of approach.

JOHN DICKERSON: In America, we would call that weasel words. He's using the word Nazi.

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: Well-uh it's a-it's a mentality that we believe needs to be averted because it's a mentality. It's an approach. You see, Iranians went out in large numbers on September 11th, 2001 holding a candle light to mourn the death of Americans. The same Iranians cannot come here to the United States to see their kids and grandkids. We have received negative response from the United States government. The current government, unreasonable destroyed - unreasonably destroyed a-an agreement that had been worked on for so many years. So I think we are the ones who should be complaining. President Trump in his televised statements has insulted the Iranians. He called the entire Iranian people a terrorist nation. He called us an outlaw nation. You don't take that lightly.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you so much.

FOREIGN MINISTER ZARIF: Good to be with you.