TEHRAN: Iran’s government said on Tuesday an investigation had been ordered into leaked audio of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif bemoaning the military’s influence, after its emergence stirred controversy ahead of presidential elections. President Hassan Rouhani ordered the probe to identify who leaked the “stolen” three-hour recording that has sparked anger among conservatives.
Rouhani’s moderate government has sought to downplay the remarks, which were leaked ahead of the June elections and as Iran and world powers discuss ways to revive a 2015 nuclear accord.
“In the Islamic republic the military field rules,” Zarif said in the audiotape, quoted by the New York Times. “I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy.”
Comments he made about Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm who was killed in a US air strike last year, hit a nerve.
“The president has ordered the intelligence ministry to identify the agents of this conspiracy,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said.
His ministry later published a video showing images of Zarif and Soleimani, accompanied by a quote it said was from the recording.
“We believe this theft of documents is a conspiracy against the government, the system, the integrity of effective domestic institutions, and also against our national interests.”
Zarif has yet to comment on the controversy, but on Tuesday he posted an audio message on Instagram, saying “don’t worry about history so much, but worry about God and the people”.
“I believe that our country suffered a great blow after the departure of martyr Soleimani,” it read.
“These are my beliefs and I have declared them everywhere, even in private meetings.” The ministry said the leak was from a seven-hour discussion that included “personal opinions”.
Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2021