TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday slammed as a “big mistake” remarks by the foreign minister complaining about the military’s influence on diplomacy.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, a long-standing key member of moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet, made the remarks in a three-hour “confidential” conversation first published by media outlets outside Iran a week ago.
On the other hand, the foreign minister apologised for recorded comments about Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a US drone strike in 2020. The attack at the time brought the US and Iran to the brink of war. Soleimani’s funeral processions in Iran drew millions of people to the streets.
In the recordings, Zarif criticises Soleimani’s separate relations with Russia and for refusing to stop using the national carrier Iran Air for Syrian operations despite Zarif’s objections. Iran Air has been sanctioned by the US.
Zarif said in an Instagram post on Sunday he hoped Soleimani’s family would forgive him. I hope that the great people of Iran and all the lovers of General (Soleimani) and especially the great family of Soleimani, will forgive me, he said.
The Iranian foreign minister seeks ‘forgiveness’ from the late Gen Soleimani’s family for his remarks
The recording provoked anger from conservatives. But moderates have questioned who stood to gain from the leak, as presidential elections loom and amid pivotal talks seeking to revive a hobbled 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.
In his televised remarks, Ayatollah Khamenei said: “The country’s policies are made of different economic, military, social, scientific and cultural plans, including foreign relations and diplomacy.”
Saying “that one part denies the other or contradicts... is a big mistake that must not be perpetrated by officials of the Islamic republic,” the supreme leader added.
He did not explicitly cite the leaked audio or Javad Zarif’s name, but the comments, in the last few minutes of an hour-long speech, were clearly targeted at the foreign minister.
The supreme leader emphasised that “nowhere in the world is foreign policy devised by the foreign ministry”.
The diplomatic apparatus is only “the executor” of decisions made at higher levels, he said, noting that decisions are made by the Supreme National Security Council.
Javad Zarif said in the recording that “the military field rules” in Iran and that he had “sacrified diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy”. Khamenei said on Sunday “some of these remarks are a repeat of hostile remarks of our enemies, repeating America’s rhetoric”.
The US and Iran have been at loggerheads for decades, but tensions ratcheted significantly during the administration of president Donald Trump.
Trump three years ago unilaterally abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, imposing biting sanctions which have prompted Tehran to progressively abandon its commitments under the deal. He also presided over a US air strike last year in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards foreign operations arm.
Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2021