RFL/RE – Embattled Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has apologized for comments he made in a recording that was leaked last week in which he criticized the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the powerful late General Qasem Soleimani.
Zarif wrote on Instagram on May 2 that he hoped Soleimani’s family and the Iranian people would forgive him for the controversial comments.
The leaked recordings have touched off a firestorm in Iran less than two months ahead of a presidential election. On the recording, Zarif criticizes the IRGC’s involvement in diplomacy and charges that Soleimani maintained separate relations with Russia.SEE ALSO:Iranian Foreign Minister’s Leaked Comments Spark Political Frenzy
He also criticized his lack of influence within the country’s theocratic political system, saying that he was often left in the dark on important foreign-policy decisions.
Soleimani was killed by a U.S. drone strike near Baghdad in 2020 and, since then, has been lionized in Iran as a martyr. Prosecutors in Tehran have launched a criminal investigation into the leak, while hard-liners have accused Zarif of “betrayal” and the “defamation” of Soleimani.
The leaked audio was from an interview with Zarif that was recorded on February 24 as part of an “oral history” series, the interviewer, prominent economist Saeed Laylaz, said in an audio file that was posted online.
Zarif can be heard repeatedly saying his comments are not for publication.
After the disclosure, the Foreign Ministry said the most controversial excerpts were taken out of context from a seven-hour conversation.
Zarif has said he does not plan to participate in the June presidential election. In the past he has been often mentioned as a possible challenger to the hard-line faction.
Russia has long been one of Iran’s closest allies and has consistently supported Tehran at the United Nations. Moscow called the assassination of Soleimani a “reckless step” that threatened regional stability.
On April 28, Zarif posted on Instagram a video of himself visiting the memorial to his “longtime friend” Soleimani in Baghdad. He wrote that he favored a “smart adjustment” between the diplomatic and military spheres in Tehran.