The reaction of the international community would "not be pleasant" for the United States if President Donald Trump decides to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.
In addition to US isolation from the rest of the world, "Iran has many options and those options are not pleasant," including "resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities," he said on CBS.
A resumption, Zarif said, does not include developing nuclear weapons, because Iran "has never wanted to produce a bomb." In recent weeks, Iranian officials have said that in the absence of the deal, they would feel free to install and operate thousands of new uranium centrifuges that could, in theory, produce weapons-grade material.
The fate of Iran nuclear deal is also front and centre when French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in the US tonight for the first official state visit Trump has hosted for any leader. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit on Saturday NZT.
Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee for secretary of state, said in his confirmation hearing last week that Iran was not "racing to build a bomb" before the deal and that he did not expect it to do so if the agreement was terminated.
"So, they put sanctions on Iran at that time because we were not racing for a bomb, and now they want to reimpose sanctions on Iran because we are not racing for a bomb," Zarif said. "It's interesting."
He added: "Obviously, the rest of the world cannot ask us to unilaterally and one-sidedly implement a deal that has already been broken."
He repeated charges that it is the United States, not Iran, that has already violated the agreement, by using its dominant presence in the international financial community to "dissuade our economic partners from engaging with Iran."
Zarif is on a visit to New York, where Iran maintains diplomatic representation to the United Nations, in advance of the May 12 deadline Trump has set for his decision on whether to reimpose economic sanctions that were lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement.
His trip also comes at a time of rising tensions in the Middle East, where Iran has expanded its activities in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and of Hizbollah, the Lebanese militia whose fighters are aiding Assad in a civil war.
Israeli warplanes have bombed Hizbollah and Syrian military installations, while Saudi Arabia and the United States charge Iran is aiding Houthi rebels in Yemen, leading many experts to warn of an escalating risk of regional war.
Asked about Assad's use of chemical weapons, which led to a second US airstrike in Syria earlier this month, Zarif countered that US troops are illegally in Syria, while both Iran and Russia were invited there by the Assad Government. While not directly addressing the question of chemical warfare, he switched the subject to US weapons in Saudi Arabia that are "bombing Yemeni children to smithereens."
The United States is "engaged actively in what amounts to war crimes. As far as chemical weapons are concerned, Iran has been a victim," he said, referring to the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, in which then Iraqi-leader Saddam Hussein, who received US support, used chemicals against Iranians.
In addition to an overall change of US attitude, Zarif said, Iran is looking for "a change of language" from Trump, who has frequently denounced Iran's religious leadership. Other members of the administration and some lawmakers have called for regime change and military action against Iran.
The nuclear deal, signed by France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, in addition to the United States and Iran, restricts the quantity and quality of nuclear facilities Iran can have for use in a strictly peaceful power production and research programme for a number of years, and imposes strict international monitoring.
Trump has said those restrictions are insufficient and that unless the deal can be "fixed," he will refuse to sign an upcoming sanctions waiver that was part of the original agreement.
Trump also wants it to include new restrictions on Iranian development of ballistic missiles and on Iran's expansionist activities in the region - issues that were not part of the nuclear deal. All six other signatories have rejected any changes in the document, although Britain, France and Germany have said they share US concerns and are negotiating separate agreements with Washington they hope will address Trump's demands.
Zarif said such side agreements would not resolve Iran's complaints about US failure to comply with its own obligations to facilitate foreign investment in Iran.
US failure to stay in the agreement, he said, would send a message to North Korea and other countries engaged in negotiations with the United States "that you cannot reach an agreement with the United States ... and expect it to be observed."
On the agenda at Trump's meeting with Macron, there is a Syria strategy to figure out. Trade, climate change, Russia, North Korea and counterterrorism are all on the to-do list.
But no issue looms larger than Iran, and the nuclear agreement.
Macron has been working towards this moment for months. "What I told him was not to tear up the deal," he told journalists in October.
"It's a very long shot, but it's the only one we have," François Heisbourg, a former French presidential adviser on defence and national security, said of the Macron offensive. "You might as well try."
The special bond that seems to have developed between the 71-year-old American President and Macron, a 40-year-old political novice elected just a year ago, is no accident. While Merkel is clearly turned off by Trump, and British Prime Minister Theresa May's Parliament and population have indicated they don't even want him to visit, Macron has gone far out of his way to cultivate him.
Their first handshake, a virtual arm-wrestle at an international meeting in Germany last June, produced a globally viral video. In July, Macron invited Trump to Bastille Day in Paris, treated him as a senior statesman and impressed him with a front-row seat at a massive military parade that Trump now plans to emulate in Washington. In addition to the September UN meeting, the two have near-weekly telephone conversations.
"It's Macron's nature," said William Drozdiak, author of Fractured Continent: Europe's Crises and the Fate of the West and an upcoming biography of the French President. "He walks into a room, sees a chair and tries to seduce it."
"He looks at Trump and says, 'Okay, we've got our interests, and the best way of securing them is for me to flatter this guy, pat him on the back and get along with him so that I can manipulate him,'" Drozdiak said.
Macron is "the ultimate pragmatist ... that's why he's the only Western leader now with an open dialogue to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin," as well as Trump.
The French turn down their noses at media descriptions of a "bromance" between the French and US presidents. "Macron is not the friend of Trump," said a French official. "We don't believe all this stuff about bromance, that they're buddies."
"Macron is doing this because he knows that he has to be close to our closest ally, the president of the most powerful country in the world. It's in our interest to have a good relationship. He doesn't go as a friend," the official said.