In an interview with CBS Sunday, the top diplomat outlined Iran’s foreign and military priorities.
Talking to "Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan, Zarif highlighted the role Iran plays in the Middle East, while criticizing the US that sees itself as a “force for good” despite “aligning with the wrong people”.
"You see, we are operating in our own region. That's why it's called the Persian Gulf, not the Gulf of Mexico. We are operating in our own region. We are a force for stability in our region. History shows that," Zarif said, according to Sputnik.
He contrasted Iran’s conduct with that of the US, which operates far from its shores.
"The United States is operating far from its shores, in our region", he said.
According to Zarif, Iran's military goal is fighting terrorism in the region.
"We have been helpful everywhere. We have fought terrorism in Syria. We have fought terrorism in Iraq", he said.
Zarif reminded Brennan that he had attended a ceremony commemorating Iranian soldiers, who were killed in their fight against Daesh in Iraq, noting that the Iranian president sent letters to the event.
"Everybody recognizes the role of Iran in bringing stability. I haven't seen them commemorating any martyrs from Saudi Arabia fighting Daesh, or [from the] UAE", he said.
He criticized US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, testifying before Congress earlier in April, said, "There is no doubt there is a connection between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Al-Qaeda — period, full stop."
"He's wrong because [Americans] have aligned themselves with the wrong people in our region. And they cannot accept that they're suffering defeat because they simply chose the wrong side," he said, asserting that Saudi Arabia and the UAE — both US allies — are the ones responsible for creating terrorist threats in the Middle East.
"Their allies, their clients — Saudi Arabia and the UAE — have spent billions upon billions of dollars trying to create unrest, trying to support terrorist organizations, even in areas [in which] we are not present, like in North Africa," Zarif said. "You need to look at the trouble, where it actually is coming from. It's not coming from Iran. Who provided the ideology for Daesh? Who provided the ideology for Al-Qaeda? Are they following our ideology? Come on".
According to Zarif, Pompeo and the US must get things straight, because "making up stories" about Iran will not solve US problems, but will lead to more useless military expenses.
"If Secretary Pompeo wants to make up these stories, then he can continue doing so, but that wouldn't resolve America's problems. That would lead to President Trump saying ‘we spend seven trillion dollars in this region and brought nothing but misery to ourselves and to the people of the region,'" he said, referring to Trump's 2018 statement, in which he said the US spent this amount of money in the Middle East.
"We have spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East over a 17-year period, and we have nothing. Nothing, except death and destruction. It's a horrible thing", Trump said at that time.
Commenting on a question about whether Zarif continues to talk to former US secretary of state John Kerry, whom Trump accuses of giving Iran "bad advice" — Zarif said that he does not take "any advice from any foreigners."
"President Trump needs to look at the history of Iran. We didn't survive 7,000 years by acting on the advice of foreigners," he said.
When asked whether Tehran sees opportunities for cooperation with the US, Zarif argued that the US has to "make the right recognition" about "who's doing the work for stability" in the region. Despite having no diplomatic relations, Iran still keeps the negotiation table open on prisoner exchange with Washington.
He lamented Washington's unilateral abandonment of the Iranian nuclear deal, as well as other treaties, including the Paris Agreement and the INF, saying these steps damage the reputation of the US as a reliable partner for negotiations. He noted that should Washington proclaim May 2 the deadline for the rest of the world to stop buying Iranian oil, it will "show to the Iranian people that the United States is not worthy of being a negotiating partner."