The U.S. Is Addicted to Sanctions, Iran's Foreign Minister Says as Country Lobbies to Save Nuclear Deal

The United States is addicted to using sanctions against Iran, the country's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Sunday.

"I believe there is a disease in the United States and that is the addiction to sanctions," Zarif told CNN in an exclusive interview. "Even during the Obama administration the United States put more emphasis on keeping the sanctions it had not lifted rather than implementing its obligation on the sanctions it lifted," he added.

Zarif gave the interview just several weeks after the U.S. reimposed sanctions that were lifted following the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, a 2015 Obama-era agreement that put curbs on the country's nuclear development program in exchange for the removal of international sanctions.

The U.S. has also been pressuring its allies in Europe to stop doing business with Iran, and threatened to impose a secondary sanction on foreign companies that continue to work with the country. Last week, the State Department also created an Iran Action Group that will work on pressuring Tehran to implement a list of 12 demands Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out in a speech in May.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif smiles during meeting. On Sunday he told CNN the U.S. is addicted to sanctions. Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Pompeo demanded that Tehran end its proliferation of ballistic missiles and withdraw all of the forces it has under its command in Syria, among other claims. Pompeo said the U.S. would not negotiate with Iran unless all of these demands are met.

President Donald Trump has said the Iran nuclear deal is a terrible agreement that should never have been done, but international inspectors have consistently concluded that Iran is complying with the agreement, and that its nuclear development program has been decelerated as a result.

Despite the U.S. decision to pull out of the agreement, which was signed between Iran, the U.S., Russia, China, and the European Union, Tehran continues to insist that the agreement can be saved. EU member states have said they are looking into ways to protect their companies from U.S. sanctions and allow them to do business with Iran. Most international actors believe the deal is important in order to prevent the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

For Iran, the deal is needed to bolster a struggling economy. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman on Monday urged the EU, Russia, and China to speed up their efforts to save the deal. Analysts note that Iran's leaders have a vested interest in opposing international sanctions.

"Sanctions relief may not have lifted the Iranian economy as a whole, but it has lifted the fortunes of Iranian elites," Chris Meserole, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, told Newsweek. "Zarif may frame sanctions in terms of the harm it's doing to Iran overall, but he's really concerned about the checkbooks of the political, financial and military elite that the regime in Tehran depends on for support and legitimacy."

The interview with CNN was the first an Iranian official gave to a U.S. media outlet since the sanctions were established and took place on the 65th anniversary of the CIA-backed coup that overthrew Iran's democratically elected nationalist leader Mohammad Mossadegh and restored the pro-Western Shah in 1953. The coup created a wave of anti-Western sentiment in the country that ultimately culminated in the 1979 revolution and the creation of an Islamic Republic.