Mohammad Javad Zarif
Mohammad Javad ZarifReuters

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Bloomberg Television on Wednesday that his country is capable of shutting the strategic Strait of Hormuz but doesn’t want to do it.

"We certainly have the ability to do it, but we certainly don’t want to do it because the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf are our lifeline," said Zarif, adding, "It has to be secured. We play a big role in securing it, but it has to be secure for everybody."

Iran regularly holds drills at the Strait of Hormuz, which is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf and through which about a third of all oil traded at sea passes.

The Islamic Republic has threatened more than once to close the Strait of Hormuz, with the United States warning Iran in response that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a "red line" -- grounds for US military action.

In Wednesday’s interview, Zarif also asserted that the US “shot itself in the foot” by pulling out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.

He added that the European countries that are part of the original agreement have not stepped up to carry out their own commitments under the deal.

Iran has the capability to pursue nuclear weapons but “we’re not going to build” them because Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a “religious commitment” that they were forbidden, Zarif told Bloomberg.

“If we wanted to build nuclear weapons, we could have built it a long time ago,” claimed Zarif, who was in New York to address a United Nations meeting.

Nevertheless, he signaled that Iran will continue to pursue what he called the Islamic Republic’s rights under the accord to respond to the US pullout and failed European efforts to deliver promised benefits to the Iranian economy.

Two weeks ago, Iran announced that it had exceeded the amount of enriched uranium permitted under the deal. Several days later, Iran followed up by saying it had begun to enrich uranium to 5% purity instead of the 3.67% limit imposed under the JCPOA.

On Monday, Iran warned the EU that it is prepared to end all of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear, and restore its nuclear program to the status quo ante, under which Tehran placed no limits on any areas of nuclear development.

Pressed on how to engage with the US in a way that eases tensions, Zarif suggested that the burden falls on Trump. He also expressed skepticism of renegotiating the 2015 accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, to include talks on Iran’s missile program.

“You don’t buy a horse twice,” he said.

Zarif rejected the idea that Iran is waiting for next year’s election in the US to put a Democratic president in office who might be open to reentering the deal.

“No country in their right mind would make their foreign policy based on results they don’t have any control over,” he said. He went on to give Trump a “better than 50% chance” of winning reelection.