Iran's Zarif expresses regret over leaked audio of Soleimani criticism

Iran's Zarif expresses regret over leaked audio of Soleimani criticism
In an Instagram post, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he regretted the “domestic infighting” caused by a leak of a recording of him criticising assassinated commander Qasem Soleimani.
3 min read
Zarif regretted the 'domestic infighting' caused by his leaked criticism of Soleimani [Anadolu / Getty]

Iran's foreign minister said on Wednesday that he favours a "smart adjustment" between the military and diplomatic spheres, in his first public reaction to leaked audio of him bemoaning the influence of the Iranian military and assassinated Revolutionary Guard commander Qasem Soleimani.

Mohammad Javad Zarif also said he regretted that the leak had triggered "domestic infighting," amid a furious reaction from conservative figures and media outlets.

"I was very sorry that a secret theoretical talk regarding the need for synergy between diplomacy and the (military) field ... turns into domestic infighting," Iran's top diplomat said on his Instagram account.

"Honest and passionate" argument in a private setting had been misconstrued as "personal criticism," he wrote.

But Zarif also appeared to stick by the core argument that he made in the leaked audio.

He said on Wednesday that the "main point" of his remarks in the audio - in which he says the Iranian military has too much influence on diplomacy - is emphasising "the need for a smart adjustment of the relationship between" diplomacy and the military.

Zarif also said on Wednesday he saw a need for "setting priorities through legal structures and under the great purview of the supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has ordered a probe to identify who leaked the "stolen" three-hour recording.

His 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 audio tape, published by several media outlets outside Iran on Sunday. "I have sacrified 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, especially hit a nerve, with Zarif specifically addressing that in his Instagram post.

"I have had the honour of deep friendship and cooperation with Haj Qasem (Soleimani) for more than two decades," he wrote, noting that he has repeatedly reminded the world of what he described as Soleimani's "humanity, peacefulness and courage".

He also defended his track record by stressing that he has "always followed the country's internally agreed policies and strongly defended them".

"Safeguarding the country's interests and... (those of) the patient and valiant people of Iran is an oath I will stand by until the last moment," Zarif pledged.

"But I have considered appeasement and self-censorship in expert opinion to be a betrayal," he added.

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