Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has criticized the dominance of the assassinated Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Qassem Suleimani in Iranian diplomacy, admitting that his own influence over Iranian foreign policy was at times nil. in a filtered audio recording.
The comments are from an interview that the Iranian Foreign Ministry admits that Zarif gave last March, but says it has been misrepresented through targeted quotes. The leak was claimed as exclusive by Iran International, a Persian-language network considered by Tehran as hostile and owned by the Saudis.
Suleimani was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020, and official criticism of the IRGC’s influence on Iranian foreign policy is extremely rare.
Some say the leak appears designed to discredit Zarif internally, but others will claim that the interview is an attempt by Zarif to exonerate himself for failures in Iranian foreign policy.
The launch comes as a battle escalates in Iran over the advisability of reaching a new agreement with the West on reactivating the nuclear deal signed in 2015. Indirect talks led by the Iranian Foreign Ministry are taking place between Iran and United States in Vienna. and will resume this week.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry admitted that the seven-hour interview was genuine but designed as an internal record, and certainly not for publication before the end of the government headed by President Hassan Rouhani after the June presidential elections.
The Foreign Ministry also claimed that the excerpts were a distortion and were framed to show Zarif giving an unduly negative view of Suleimani.
It is the second time in four days that the Iranian Foreign Ministry has been forced to issue statements condemning media distortions of its motives. It has also launched an attack on distorted coverage of the Vienna talks by an Iranian state broadcaster.
The leak came when the Iranian chief negotiator in the Vienna talks, Abbas Araghchi, informed the Iranian parliament that an agreement had been reached with the United States on the lifting of sanctions in some sectors such as banking, oil insurance and automobiles. But he again insisted that all anti-Iranian sanctions, including the 1,500 imposed on people, must be lifted at once.
The Zarif interview was conducted by a reformist economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz.
In published interview excerpts, Zarif described the imposition of foreign policy on the Iranian Foreign Ministry by the IRGC as something akin to a cold war. He said he spent more time in his relationship with the IRGC than anything else, and security had more influence on diplomacy than diplomacy on security.
Zarif complained that there was a group in Iran that had an interest in seeing everything through the lens of security.
He also called for forces inside Iran before the 2015 deal attempted to disrupt a deal that included an attack on the Saudi embassy. He also claimed that Suleimani traveled to Moscow shortly after the deal to try to end Russia’s support for the deal.
The published excerpts also suggest that Suleiman rejected requests from the Foreign Ministry not to show such obvious support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, including not using Iranian state airlines to transport goods to Syria.
He also claims that the IRGC traveled to Moscow shortly after the nuclear deal was signed in an attempt to persuade Russia to abandon its support.
The Foreign Ministry said that, if given permission, it will publish the full interview to remove the distortions.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism