The spat involving the audio recording of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offering an insight into the alleged power wielded by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), leaked on 25 April, comes amid a return to international negotiations over the JCPOA and ahead of a June presidential election in the Islamic Republic.
Mohammad Javad Zarif has underscored his “long-time” friendship with Lieutenant General Qasem Solemani, a top commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who was killed in a targeted US drone strike on 3 January 2020.
“I have been shouting out the vigour, humanity, pacifism and courage of Martyr Soleimani, not just before the great people of Iran and not only today, but before the entire world and for more than two decades,” Zarif wrote in a post on his verified Instagram account on Wednesday.
Iran’s Foreign Minister also attached a video of himself paying tribute to the former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Quds Force on 27 April.
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Zarif had visited a memorial erected at the site where the national hero was assassinated on orders from ex-president Donald Trump, near Baghdad International Airport. The Iranian FM said he was overwhelmed with pride for Iran’s heroes.
“I have pointed out time and again that if peace has been established in Afghanistan and Iraq and if Daesh’s* terrorism has been defeated, more than anything else, it is owed to the wisdom and courage of General Soleimani and the bravery and self-sacrifice of the people of those lands,” he noted.
The Iranian Foreign Minister availed himself of an opportunity to clarify remarks he is heard making in a recently leaked audio file, where he appears to voice criticism of some of the late general’s actions.
Underscoring that they were ‘out of context’ excerpts from a confidential argument employed to help boost convergence between the country’s military and diplomatic apparatus, he wrote:
“I was very sorry that a secret theoretical talk regarding the need for synergy between diplomacy and the (military) field … turns into domestic infighting and the honest and passionate pathology of some processes is framed as personal criticism.”
Zarif added that reducing a theoretical debate on the relationship between the two wings of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s power abroad was “not only short-sighted but in complete contradiction with views of this student of international relations (himself), who deems the field and diplomacy as synergistic and complementary”.
Leaked audio of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif debating with economist Saeed Laylaz had sparked a political storm amid questions about who might have been behind the release.
Iran International, a Saudi-funded news channel based in London, was reportedly the first to publish parts of the audiotape transcript.
During the dialog, recorded on 24 February as part of an “oral history” project to document the history of the eight years of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s government, the foreign minister sounded critical of the predominance of what he called “the field” over “diplomacy”.
“In the Islamic Republic, the military field rules. I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy”, Zarif is reported as saying on the tape.
While ostensibly deploring that diplomatic efforts within the government are overshadowed by the demands of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), throughout the audio Zarif repeatedly hailed General Soleimani’s activities in the region. He also underscored his own close cooperation with the general in the days preceding the start of the US invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq.