While it seemed all but certain on Monday evening that President Bashar Al-Assad’s surprise visit to Tehran would dominate the news the next day, by Tuesday morning the resignation of Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif had already captured the headlines.
For security reasons, President Assad’s visit to Tehran was kept a secret until he was already safe in Damascus. Very few people had been made aware the visit was going to take place at all.
— Danny Makki (@Dannymakkisyria) 25 февраля 2019 г.
The visit was organized by General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. President Assad reached Iran secretly through a military airport without anyone’s knowledge, even the Foreign Minister himself.
President Assad had a long meeting with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and then visited President Rouhani before returning to Damascus.
— Press TV (@PressTV) 26 февраля 2019 г.
While pictures show consultants like Ali Akbar Velayati meeting with President Assad, they do not show him talking to any of President Rouhani’s Ministers, Deputies or Advisors. It seems the Foreign Minister was kept in the dark throughout the entire visit. There is good reason to believe that this played a role in prompting Zarif’s resignation.
Mr. Zarif even hinted at the idea in a short interview with Aria News Agency. Choosing to remain somewhat cryptic, he said he had chosen to resign in order to preserve the dignity of the country’s Foreign Ministry.
Yet the question bears further examination… why had he not been told in the first place?
Iranian Parliamentary member Karimi Ghoddusi said that Mr. Zarif has tried to resign over a dozen times, and had struggled with the government for a long time before his resignation was made public via Instagram Tuesday.
While Assad’s visit was clearly a catalyst, what brought about the other attempted resignations?
When President Rouhani came into office five years ago it was obvious that he would choose his old colleague and friend Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif as his foreign minister- the two had already worked together for a number of years.
Their first success was helping to develop UN Security Council resolution 528 which ended the Iran-Iraq war.
The duo appeared again in 2003 to negotiate the Iranian nuclear program with three European nations and reach the so-called Saad Abad Deal by the end of 2004.
Though the deal with the European trio eventually fell through as a result of American intervention (according to the Europeans) the two promised to create a new deal superior to the previous one after Rouhani became president. They believed that the key to the success of the new deal was to secure the participation of the US. Alongside the guarantee of five other countries and the UN security council, Washington’s consent would help ensure that the deal would be implemented.
The deal they eventually drafted was the JCPoA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Iran was as committed to the agreement and got it approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 14 times. The Americans, however, failed to abide by their commitments even when President Obama was in office. What then happened when Trump took over is already well known.
Rouhani and Zarif garnered the support of the Iranian people for the P5+1 talks and the rest of the Iranian government started to believe that further agreements with the US could be also reached if the JCPoA proved successful.
Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and implement new sanctions against Iran destroyed any hope that those already skeptical of negotiation would trust Washington again.
It was almost like a plane which was on schedule to reach its destination but suddenly lost one of its engines.
While Rouhani and Zarif were hoping that the Europeans would help fix the malfunction by moving forward without the US, they ended up caving to pressure and leaving the Iranians completely immobilized.
The being said, for many among the Iranian government, Iran joining the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) would represent the plane smashing into the ground.
The FATF is an intergovernmental organization which monitors against international money laundering and financing of terrorism.
While some politicians continue to push for Iran to seek membership, their opponents believe that this is little more than a plot against the Islamic Republic due to the compromising agreements the country would have to make in order to be accepted.
Many consider those in favor of joining the FATF to be traitors… this would make the most vocal proponent of doing so, Zarif, the leader of the traitors.
Others have even charged Zarif and his allies with responsibility for the economic problems the country is currently facing.
With these issues in mind, it becomes clear that Zarif is under a great deal of pressure while the Iranian Foreign Ministry itself is beginning to lose control on questions of foreign policy. That is why Zarif, who is a veteran career diplomat, believes that he needs to take drastic steps to solve the problem.
However, analysts have reason to believe that president Rouhani will not allow his co-pilot to jump off the malfunctioning plane.
Naturally, if the Iranian President wants to keep Zarif on as his foreign minister he needs to fulfill some of Zarif’s demands. Unfortunately, even the President doesn’t have the power to do so himself and therefore requires audience with the Ayatollah.
According to ISNA, Khamenei had described Zarif as “the child of the revolution, trustworthy, brave and devout, tireless, and responsible” which proves once again that as Secretary Pompeo said, Zarif is a just front and “Khamenei makes all final decisions”. pic.twitter.com/TGmVF5wTog
— Iran News Wire (@IranNW) 26 февраля 2019 г.
In the course of writing this article, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mr. Bahram Ghasemi announced that the President had refused Zarif’s resignation.
Spokesman: President Hassan Rouhani Has Not Accepted Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s Resignation pic.twitter.com/97Sz3jAeg5
— Fars News Agency (@EnglishFars) 26 февраля 2019 г.
If this is the case, it remains to be seen if he will find another way to pursue his vision, or continue to press for Rouhani to finally accept his resignation.