The future of Iran’s head of diplomacy is at stake

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Tehran | The leak of an audio recording of the dialogue conducted by the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, increased political tensions in Iran, at a time when the country is about to hold presidential elections, in mid-June. The interview, which was recorded on February 24, and parts of it were broadcast on Sunday April 25 on the Persian-language Iran International Channel, which is affiliated with Saudi Arabia. It is part of the “Oral History” project for members of the government of President Hassan Rouhani, which was completed under the supervision of “ The Center for Strategic Studies of the Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran »run by Rouhani’s advisor, Hosam Eddin Ashna.According to what the government spokesman announced, the complete file of the dialogues was to be kept in the cabinet office in a classified “confidential” form, provided that a selected copy of each dialogue, in agreement with the person with whom the interview was conducted, would be kept in some national institution for studies, and then published And placed at the disposal of the public. However, the leak of Zarif’s interview with its unusual statements, precisely at the time when the nuclear negotiations are taking place in Vienna, was like an earthquake that shook the Iranian political environment, especially since Zarif is posed as a possible candidate for the presidency.

What did Zarif say?
It seems that the Iranian foreign minister, thinking that the interview would remain confidential, made statements that depart from what he is officially making. Although it is not uncommon to record the notes of political officials in any country, these notes are usually published at the end of the mission and responsibility of these persons. Hence, Zarif’s challenge is to spread his unusual words while still presiding over Iranian diplomacy. The part that sparked criticism, among his statements, was his blame for the role of the Revolutionary Guards, specifically the martyr Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the “Quds Force”, for marginalizing the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as his criticism of Russian policies regarding the nuclear deal.
Zarif said, in this stormy dialogue, that it was “diplomacy” that had fallen victim to the “military field” in the Islamic Republic. He added: “I did not ask General Soleimani to stop, for example, such-and-such operations temporarily, in order to make progress in the talks. Not out of my unwillingness to do so, as General Suleimani would not have agreed. On the other hand, it happened repeatedly that he was asking me to follow so-and-so topics in future talks. In another aspect of the interview, Zarif accused Russia of “putting sticks in the wheels” of the nuclear deal’s track, saying that “the Russians’ goal was not to accomplish the nuclear agreement, ”adding that“ when they saw that we were nearing the completion of the agreement, they began to set obstacles. ” In the same context, the Iranian minister pointed out that Soleimani’s 2015 visit to Moscow and his meeting with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, was carried out by a will from Moscow, not from Tehran, explaining that “Russia extended an invitation to Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani to visit Moscow with the aim of torpedoing The Accomplishments of the Nuclear Agreement ». He added, “We claim that Mr. Soleimani pushed Putin to go to war (in Syria), but Putin had made his decision.” Putin entered the war, but with the air force, but he also pushed Iran’s ground forces into the war. Until then, we had no ground force. Syrians, Arabs and Afghans volunteered. ”

The issue turned into a matter of disagreement and controversy between the forces close to the government and its opponents

Mixed reactions
The leak of the audio recording provoked many reactions in the Iranian political community. In the cabinet session, the day before yesterday, President Hassan Rouhani saw that “the leakage of the tape recorded of the non-public speech of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Muhammad Javad Zarif, at a time when the Vienna talks recorded the best success, aimed at stirring up internal disputes in the country,” stressing the need to uncover Responsible for leaking this tape. This came at a time when the Iranian government spokesperson, Ali Rabiei, announced that Rouhani had instructed the Ministry of Security to identify those involved in the leak, which he described as “theft”, usually as a “conspiracy against the state, internal cohesion, active institutions and national interests.”
In his first reaction to the leak, Zarif criticized, in a message on the “Instagram” website, the confusion that had been raised. He said, “This talk is a secret theoretical discussion about the need to activate diplomacy and the field, the aim of which is to transfer the eight-year experience to future officials.” He added, “It is unfortunate that this conversation turned into an internal skirmish and some people used it for personal criticism.” The Iranian Foreign Minister expressed his pride in the deep relationship between him and Martyr Soleimani, over two decades, and the friendship, friendship and joint work that accompanied it.
On the other hand, some MPs and media outlets close to the Revolutionary Guards described what was mentioned in the recording as “treason,” considering the funny words about Soleimani as “an insult.” A number of them called for the intervention of the Supreme Council for National Security and the judiciary to deal with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In this context, the head of the Shura Council, Muhammad Baqir Qalibaf, hinted in his tweet on the Twitter site that the criticism directed at Soleimani is “opportunistic to achieve political goals.” The matter did not end there, as the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Islamic Consultative Assembly demanded that Zarif appear before it to decide on his controversial interview, while Ismail Kothari, one of the leaders of the Revolutionary Guard, advised him to enter the “military field” to see what is happening there. . While some observers considered Zarif’s statements an indication of “dual sovereignty” in Iran and the escalation of the contradiction, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, rejected that reading, stressing that “the state’s decisive policies in the field and diplomacy were and are still the outcome of the convincing and hidden dialogues on the toxic view.” Gentiles who are not welcome and enemies ».

Additional controversy
In any case, this issue and the questions it raised about the party behind it and the goal of what it did, turned into a matter of disagreement and controversy between the forces close to the government and its opponents, especially in the media. In this context, the government newspaper “Iran” said that “opponents of the Rouhani government are the ones behind the leakage of Zarif’s audio,” considering that “the aim of this is to hit the ongoing talks in Vienna and influence the Iranian presidential elections.” On the other hand, the fundamentalist “Kayhan” newspaper accused the government of leaking the audio, with the aim of what it described as “escaping the shame of the empty record” of the government, in its final days. And she wrote that “the past of the Rouhani government’s actions in the field of psychological operations indicates that whenever public pressure escalates against it, and its performance becomes under the focus of public opinion, it resorts, instead of offering an apology and working to compensate for the losses, to the trick of smoke grenades.”
While the “Fars” news agency affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, on its part, addressed Zarif, saying that “Martyr Soleimani provided you with support and support in the talks, by strengthening the axis of resistance, but you could not turn that into material in your hand,” adding: “He sacrificed ( Soleimani) himself, in order for the field to revive and the diplomacy to live, but today he is accused of that diplomacy paid the price for his work in the field. ”The reformist newspaper“ Etimad ”, in turn, supported Zarif’s words, stressing that“ the final responsibility for implementing foreign policy must fall on the shoulders of the Ministry The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and that the rest of the institutions work in coordination with it. ”Follow up that“ the military force should be a support for the country’s diplomacy, not an obstacle that hinders its path. ”
In the results, Zarif remains the main victim of the leakage of his audio record, which represents a major blow to the man within the power structure, which will cast a shadow over his political future. Likewise, the leak, in conjunction with the Vienna talks, would subject the upcoming presidential elections to more influence on foreign policy issues. In this context, it is not excluded that the duality of “diplomacy – the field” will become a main material for competition between the candidates of the fundamentalists on the one hand, and the reformists and the current close to the Rouhani government, on the other hand.

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