- Nagy Palace
- BBC Persian
A leaked audio tape has spread, in which the Iranian Foreign Minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, criticizes the Revolutionary Guards’ control of the country’s foreign policy and its introduction into the Syrian civil war by order of Russia, as many expressed on social media their shock and astonishment.
Some of the disclosed information confirms what many Iranians have suspected all the time. Surprisingly, these comments came from Zarif, a seasoned diplomat who is usually careful and moderate by Iranian standards.
It was not clear who leaked the tape, although it comes at a time when Iran is preparing to hold presidential elections and internal power struggles reach new heights.
Zarif has said that he is not a candidate to succeed President Hassan Rouhani, but that the hardliners do not trust him and want to eliminate any chance of that happening.
It is clear that the tape will put Iran’s most senior diplomat in great trouble with the militants and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all government affairs and controls the Revolutionary Guard, the country’s most powerful security force.
One newspaper has already described the story as a “scandal”.
The three-hour audio tape, which reached the BBC and other news outlets abroad, appears to be taken from a video clip of a seven-hour interview conducted more than two months ago as part of the Oral History Project covering President Rouhani’s two terms in office.
On the tape, Zarif was heard twice saying that he believed his comments would not be heard or published for many years.
The minister repeatedly complains that the Revolutionary Guards have made diplomacy and Iran’s foreign policy subordinate to the region’s battlefield needs.
Zarif specifically mentions how the late Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, who was assassinated in a US drone strike in Iraq in January 2020, came to meet him with a series of demands.
He mentions how Soleimani wanted him to take special positions in his meetings with the Russian foreign minister, and says that the team actually brought Iran into the war in Syria because the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, wanted Iranian forces on the ground to complete the Russian air campaign to support the Syrian government.
He also complained that Soleimani had used the Iranian national airline to carry out military flights to Syria, amid great dangers and repercussions for the country’s reputation, confirming reports that civilian aircraft were used to smuggle weapons and transport forces.
Zarif also said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did everything in his power to prevent Iran from agreeing to a nuclear deal with six world powers, including Russia, in 2015. He claimed that Russia had never wanted to see Iran mend relations with the West.
His words came as a surprise. It is believed that he has good relations with Lavrov and that Russia is a close ally of Iran. The leak also comes at a time when Iran is entering indirect talks with the United States in Vienna with the aim of reviving the nuclear deal, which has been on the verge of collapse since President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions in 2018 and Iran began violating its obligations.
Zarif said that the Revolutionary Guards never wanted to agree and did everything in their power to stop it.
He cites the test of a missile written in Hebrew “Israel must be wiped from the ground” and the detention of 10 American sailors on a patrol boat in the Gulf in early 2016 as examples of their efforts to thwart the agreement.
In the recording, Zarif complains that the Revolutionary Guards have marginalized him on numerous occasions.
He recalls the early hours of January 8, 2020, when Iran attacked an Iraqi military base housing American forces with more than ten ballistic missiles in retaliation for the killing of Qassem Soleimani. He says he learned of the missile attack only two hours after it happened.
Later that day, when an air defense unit of the Revolutionary Guard shot down, apparently by mistake, a Ukrainian airliner had just taken off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on board, the commanders only wanted him. Denial of Iran’s responsibility.
An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that Zarif’s remarks on the audio tape had been taken out of context and that the interview would be published in full if necessary.
According to the spokesman, the registration is not in the possession of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that keeping it is not the responsibility of the Ministry.