Weeks after President Donald Trump pulled out of an worldwide nuclear deal with Iran, his administration threatened to impose "the strongest sanctions in history", and vowed to "crush" Iranian operatives overseas, setting Washington and Tehran further on a course of confrontation.
The remarks by Zarif came after U.S. Secretary of States Mike Pompeo in a detailed speech demanded that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, stop its ballistic-missile program and give nuclear inspectors access to the entire country.
"We will continue to work with our allies to counter the regime's destabilizing activities in the region, block their financing of terror, and address Iran's proliferation of missiles and other advanced weapons that threaten peace and stability", Pompeo said.
Getting significant multilateral buy-in for US sanctions is key to effectively pressuring Iran, but could take a while, said Benham Taleblu, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
A bad decision such as imposing even tougher sanctions on Iran, an attempt at regime change, or a military strike of any sort would push the country towards a military theocracy far more repressive and uncompromising than before both at home and overseas. A top executive at the company said at the time that they do not need US' approval to proceed with the deal.
Iranian government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said Mr Pompeo's plans would exacerbate the public's hostility towards the US.
"We are waiting for the Europeans to deliver us their economic package as they already promised", he said.
The Donald Trump administration's new strategy on Iran is a series of tough demands and belligerent threats that is likely to bolster Iranian hardliners and increase instability in the Middle East.
We want out allies in Europe and around the world to join in this effort against the Islamic Republic of Iran as I know they understand and agree with the goal of the US.
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When its key points were relayed to them, it was generally seen as the same angry rhetoric they have been hearing from the United States for decades.
Declaring the era of USA domination "over", he added, "we will continue our path with the support of our nation". Just two weeks ago an Iranian official told a United States talk show "we never wanted a nuclear bomb".
Pompeo warned that if Iran fully resumed its nuclear program Washington would be ready to respond and said the administration would hold companies doing prohibited business in Iran to account. Any company doing business with Iran will be held "to account" through sanctions the USA plans to implement within months. His 12-point list of demands called for Iran to acquiesce to the U.S. virtually across the board.
At the same time, Mr Pompeo offered Iran a series of dramatic potential USA concessions if it agrees to make "major changes".
After the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and imposed new sanctions on Tehran, the European Union announced that it was considering options to counter possible U.S. sanctions against their companies, such as implementing the "blocking statute" from 1996. China is Iran's biggest trading partner and, if necessary, China will import more Iranian oil to support Tehran, especially if these are offered at a discount, something that would also appeal to India as that country has began to raise concerns at oil prices reaching the $80 a barrel levels threatening India's economic growth.
"At the end of the day, the Iranian people will get to make their choice about their leadership", Pompeo said.
Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of the Brooking Institution think tank's foreign policy program, said Pompeo's speech did indeed amount to a strategy of regime change. The EU's foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, said Monday that "there is no alternative" to the agreement.
The NCRI's main constituent group, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) is widely credited with the on-the-ground organization of the continuing protests, a key element in their potential to bring about real change.