RFL/RE – Iran has slapped travel bans on 15 people for alleged involvement in a leaked audio recording in which Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif complains about the influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Iranian diplomacy, semi-official news agency ISNA reported on April 29.
In the leaked interview, aired by the London-based Iran International Persian-language satellite news channel late on April 25, Zarif said he had “zero” influence over Iran’s foreign policy.
“According to a judiciary source, 15 people involved in the interview have been banned from leaving Iran,” ISNA reported.
The recording has angered hard-liners in Iran, who called the leak “an espionage act,” prompting some lawmakers to call for Zarif’s resignation.
State news agency IRNA reported that President Hassan Rohani April 29 replaced the head of the state-run institute that was in charge of conducting the interview. Authorities have said the recording was part of a wider project with government officials and was produced for state records rather than for publication.
“Hessameddin Ashena, head of the Strategic Studies Center, has resigned…. President Rohani has appointed the cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei to replace him,” IRNA reported.
Ashena, who Iranian media said was present during the seven-hour interview with Zarif, is also an adviser to the president.
Rohani said on April 28 that the leak was intended to disrupt talks between Tehran and six powers in Vienna aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal that Washington abandoned three years ago. He ordered an inquiry into the recording’s release.
While on a regional tour, Zarif said in an Instagram post that he regretted the leak and his remarks were misinterpreted.