Among those Zarif suspects of wanting to escalate tensions are the so-called “B Team” that includes US National Security Advisor John Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Wallace asked if they’re “all trying to exercise regime change?”
“At least, at least,” Zarif responded. “They have all shown an interest in dragging the United States into a conflict. I do not believe that President Trump wants to do that, I believe President Trump ran on a campaign promise of not bringing the United States into another war. But I believe President Trump’s intention to put pressure, the policy of maximum pressure on Iran in order to bring Iran to its knees so that we would succumb to pressure, is doomed to failure.”
Also on Wednesday, Zarif said that he does not believe the US president wants war with Iran, but he said Donald Trump could be lured into a conflict.
“I don’t think he wants war,” Zarif said in an interview at the Iranian mission to the United Nations in New York. “But that doesn’t exclude him being basically lured into one.”
“Those who have designed the policies that are being pursued do not simply want a negotiated solution. But let me make it clear that Iran is not seeking confrontation, but will not escape defending itself,” he said.
Zarif also warned of the possibility that people could try “to plot an accident” that could trigger a broader crisis.
“Accidents are possible,” Zarif said. “I don’t discount the ‘B Team’ plotting an ‘accident’ anywhere in the region, particularly as we get close to an election here.”
“President Trump’s aim is to bring us to our knees and talk,” Zarif said at the Asia Society in New York. “But the ‘B Team’ wants regime change at the very least.”
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have risen since the Trump administration withdrew last year from an international nuclear deal with Iran and began ratcheting up sanctions. Earlier this month, the United States blacklisted Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and demanded buyers of Iranian oil stop purchases by May or face sanctions.
The US blacklisting of the IRGC was the first time any nation has labeled another country’s military a terrorist organization.
Reuters and Bloomberg also contributed to this story.