In Leaked Audio, Iran’s Foreign Minister Criticizes Influence Of Revolutionary Guards : NPR

In this file photo from January 26, 2021, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appears during the talks in Moscow. A record by Zarif, offering a blunt assessment of diplomacy and power lines within the Islamic Republic, has been publicly leaked. AP hide caption

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In this file photo from January 26, 2021, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appears during the talks in Moscow. A record by Zarif, offering a blunt assessment of diplomacy and power lines within the Islamic Republic, has been publicly leaked.

AP

Leaked excerpts from an interview with the Iranian Foreign Minister have sparked controversy within the Islamic Republic. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad-Zarif’s comments were never supposed to be aired, but officials say more than three hours of Sunday’s seven-hour interview leaked.

The excerpts first appeared on Iran International, a London-based broadcaster that Tehran views as a hostile, pro-Saudi Arabian outlet.

In several statements by Zarif, Iranian diplomacy was portrayed as a consequent step backwards for the interests of the military, in particular the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Zarif even took in the late General Qassem Soleimani, who was murdered in a targeted American air strike last January and is revered as a national hero in Iran.

Zarif told the interviewer, the economist Saeed Laylaz, that Soleimani had repeatedly dictated what Zarif should achieve in negotiations.

“I sacrificed diplomacy for the battlefield,” Zarif is quoted as saying. “Every time I went to negotiations, Commander Soleimani told me to ask for this and that.”

Zarif added: “In the Islamic Republic, the battlefield rules.”

Try to undermine the nuclear deal

Zarif also accused Soleimani of intermittently working against the country’s diplomats – including working with Russia to undermine the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It was considered the crowning foreign policy achievement of President Hassan Rouhani’s administration until President Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement and imposed harsh sanctions on Iran.

Zarif also denied a common allegation by hardliners that Soleimani played a key role in persuading Russian leader Vladimir Putin to join the Bashar al-Assad government in the Syrian conflict. Zarif said Putin had already decided to intervene.

A State Department spokesman did not deny Zarif’s words, but said they were “taken out of context” and did not reflect official policy.

Similar complaints in the past

This is not the first time such complaints have been filed with the Revolutionary Guards. Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani wrote in his memoir that the State Department was “practically surrounded by the Quds forces of the IRGC”. And President Rouhani has also accused the Revolutionary Guards of trying to torpedo the nuclear deal.

Zarif’s blunt remarks were made public at a time when Iran is holding talks to find a way for the United States to return to the JCPOA and for Iran to return to full compliance with the deal.

There has also been some speculation that these explosive comments leaked to deter Zarif from running to succeed the outgoing Rouhani in the June presidential election. However, among the leaked footage is Zarif saying he won’t run. A number of conservative and tenacious candidates have announced their intention to apply.

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