0900 GMT January 23, 2020
"If you allow a bully to bully you into accepting one thing, you'll encourage him to bully you into accepting other things," Zarif told BBC Hard Talk in an exclusive interview.
"We negotiated this deal; we did what we were supposed to do, [but] the US did not do what it was supposed to do," he said.
No better deal
Zarif said that all the people who were involved and in the room when negotiations were in progress will tell you that "it is impossible to get a better deal."
US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – known as the Iran nuclear deal – in May 2018, having been consistently critical of the Obama-era accord during his campaign for the presidency.
The top Iranian diplomat was in the US to attend a meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
The US imposed curbs on Zarif while in the US, restricting him and his delegation to just six New York City blocks. But Zarif was still able to give an interview to the BBC.
The Iranian foreign minister said, "The United States is working on the policy line that what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable too."
He said that the US needs to come back to the table by basically fulfilling their obligations.
Regarding US claims that Iran is destabilizing the region, Zarif said Iran did not support Saddam, Iran did not support, but fought the ISIS – and President Trump confessed to that, that's not Iran that is bombing the Yemenis, Iran did not arrest the prime minister of Lebanon and did not imprison him.
"If the United States is looking for those responsible for malign behavior in the region, they need to look at their own allies."
Economic war against Iran
The foreign minister has regularly characterized the anti-Iran sanctions campaign as an "economic war" against Iran. He told the BBC that such a strategy disproportionately affects civilians and is tantamount to engaging in terrorism.
"Economic war targets civilians. Military war targets military personnel, civilians are sometimes collateral damage," he said. "But an economic war, targets civilians.
"The United States – Secretary Pompeo has said – 'we want the Iranian people to change their government.' Putting these two together, that means the United States is terrorizing the Iranian people in order to achieve political objectives. That's the classical definition of terrorism," Zarif said.
He stressed that Iran is a normal country with "political objectives", but the US is not a normal one because it has violated numerous international agreements.
Answering a question about the solution for Iran-US tensions, he said, "We do not need to have a deadlock; we do not want to embarrass anybody; … All we want is what we negotiated and should implement it and then we can go even further."
He also said that the Middle East has enough "real problems" and there is no need for "imaginary problems."
Both sides have stressed that they do not want war, though Zarif suggested not everyone in Washington agrees.
"I believe President Trump is being advised by people who are not interested in promoting peace, but interested in advancing an agenda that they have had," he said. "I know they are people in his administration who are crazy for war. Who thirst for war."
Though he did not name them specifically, he has previously singled out national security advisor John Bolton as the most hawkish influence in the White House. Zarif even included Bolton in his belligerent "B-team," who he says are pushing the president toward war.
Other members of the group include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Protecting territorial waters
Zarif acknowledged "the possibility of an accident" that could lead to war, but stressed that Iran must ensure its sovereignty in the Persian Gulf. "It's not the Gulf of Mexico," he said. "We are there, we are protecting our territorial waters."
Zarif added that Iran will continue its oil exports.
"We will continue to sell our oil, but we will not sell our dignity", he said.
The US withdrawal from the nuclear deal was accompanied by a reimposition of economic sanctions on Iran.
In May, the White House began withdrawing waivers that had allowed nations to keep doing business in Iran without the risk of sanctions. The stated goal of this move was to cut Iranian oil exports to zero.
IRNA and Newsweek contributed to this story.