Iran's FM Zarif: Soleimani's Revolutionary Guards tried dictating Tehran's foreign policy

Iran's FM Zarif: Soleimani's Revolutionary Guards tried dictating Tehran's foreign policy
A leaked interview with Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif depicts the Revolutionary Guard Corps as the puppet masters in Iran's political sphere.
3 min read
26 April, 2021
Javad Zarif's leaked interview could cause problems n Iran [Getty]
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif says that the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) maintain significant control in the country, often rendering his diplomatic efforts and government decisions useless, a leaked audio recording shows.

In a tape recording, which Iran has begrudgingly admitted to being authentic, Zarif says that the former IRGC leader Qassem Soleimani - who was killed in a US assault in January 2020 - colluded with Russia to sabotage the nuclear deal between Tehran and Washington, and pushed policies in Syria that were not in Iran's best interests.

He said former Secretary of State John Kerry told him Israel had attacked Iranian interests in Syria at least 200 times.

"In the Islamic Republic the military field rules," he said in a three-hour interview with economist and regime critic Saeed Leylaz in March.

"I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy."

Zarif does admit that the assassination of Soleimani put a serious dent in Iran's military capabilities and was more damaging to Tehran than if the US had "wiped out an entire city".

According to the audio, the conversation between Zarif and Leylaz was not meant to go public, however a copy was leaked to Iran International, a London-based publication.

Responding to the audio recording, Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesman for the ministry, told The New York Times the leak was an example of "unethical politics" and said Zarif's statements had been cherry-picked and were taken out of context.

Limited negotiating power

Zarif admitted that due to the power of the IRGC he had limited negotiating powers, and his decisions were often overruled by the Guards and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He said the Supreme Leader had "forcefully rebuked" him for saying Iran was willing to work with the US and return to the nuclear deal.

"The structure of our foreign ministry is mostly security oriented," Zarif said.

Zarif said that on the night Iran fired missiles at a US military base in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani, Washington knew about the strike before he did.

He also claimed the Guards knew about the downing of the Ukrainian jetliner by the Iranian military - which killed all 176 onboard - and that during a meeting with military commanders he had asked for an explanation about the incident.

"I said, 'If it was hit by a missile, tell us so we can see how we can resolve it,'" Zarif can be heard saying.

"God is my witness, the way they reacted to me is as if I had denied the existence of God."

The leak comes at a crucial time, with the US and Iran attempting to return to the negotiating table as US President Joe Biden seeks to mend the nuclear accords.

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