Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif regrets that “an internal conflict” has arisen as a result of a leaked interview in which he criticizes the Revolutionary Guard, but he does not take back his statements. That‘s what Zarif said today in a response to his Instagram account.
Last weekend, an Iranian anti-government medium operating from London published parts from a seven-hour interview that Zarif had given to an Iranian economist. In it he said, among other things, that the Revolutionary Guard has turned Iran into the Syrian Civil War to serve as ground troops of Russia. The Revolutionary Guard is the elite part of the Iranian army and an important political power factor.
Zarif also criticized Qassem Soleimani, a general of the Revolutionary Guard who was killed by America last year. According to Zarif, Soleimani, with his military performances in Syria, among others, put a stick in the wheels of Zarif’s attempts at diplomacy. According to Zarif, Soleimani would actually have much more power than he himself when it comes to Iranian foreign policy.
Zarif is the Iranian architect behind the nuclear deal with the US and other world powers in 2015, after which the economic sanctions against Iran were eased. According to Zarif, Soleimani was against that deal: “I have sacrificed far more diplomacy for the battlefield than she did on the battlefield for diplomacy,” Zarif said. According to Zarif, if Iran had been less active in wars, it would have benefited much more from the nuclear deal.
Zarif also blames Soleimani for abusing Iran‘s civil carrier Iran Air to regularly transport equipment and personnel from Iran to Syria. Subsequently, sanctions were imposed on Iran Air, which put the airline in trouble.
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In his response to Instagram, Zarif says that he had a “theoretical discussion about the need for cooperation between diplomacy and the field”. This discussion is necessary so that “the next officials can use the valuable experience of the past eight years,” says Zarif.
In the interview, Zarif said several times that the content will not come out in the coming years. The interview was part of a project by economist Saeed Laylaz, to serve for later historiography of Rohani’s presidential terms. That‘s why Zarif said not to censor himself in the interview: “That would be betrayal of the people.”
Criticism of the Revolutionary Guard is sensitive in Iran. The elite force has great political and economic power and is loyal to the strictly religious hardliners, including great tayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader. Zarif, together with President Hassan Rohani, is often seen as relatively moderate. Those two political currents often collide in Iran.
There will be presidential elections in June. Zarif says he doesn‘t want to be a candidate to succeed Rohani. However, it is suggested that the Iranian hardliners are afraid of this and want to discredit him with the leakage of this interview.
Zarif was also critical of Russia and China, which are seen as allies of Iran. Russia would have been an opponent of the nuclear deal with the US in 2015, which would bring Iran and America closer together. When President Trump identified Iran as the main foreign threat when he took office, Russia and China would have welcomed that because it would distract attention from them, Zarif analyzes in the interview.
Zarif’s statements about Russia and China may have an impact on the talks that are currently going on about the resumption of the nuclear deal. Both countries have publicly stated that they are in favour of the talks that will lead America to rejoin the agreement. Under Trump, the US stepped out of the nuclear agreement with Iran.