The Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s conversation with a journalist was recorded and leaked in the last week. In the conversation, Zarif claims that his Foreign Ministry has no control over Iran’s foreign policy, being dominated by forces like Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Quds Force. He criticizes especially the legendary Iranian Commander Qasem Soleimani, murdered by a US attack, of overriding the needs of diplomacy. Zarif also makes allegations in the conversation about Russia’s role in the negotiations to the JCPoA.
The Foreign Minister has apologized for the leaked conversation publicly.
United World International spoke with Ramazan Bursa, Turkish journalist specialized on Iran and West Asia, on the repercussions of the leaked conversation.
How were the reactions to the leaked conversation of Zarif?
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s 3-hour-concersation-recording, which was leaked on last Sunday has caused a great echo in the Islamic Republic’s public opinion. The country’s leading diplomats, such as Jaberi Ansari and Sayyid Abbas Mousavi are warning that the debates on the leak harm national interests.
Ansari expressed the opinion that every country needs heroes on the ground like Qasem Soleimani and politicians and diplomats like Zarif at the same time. Mousavi emphasized that there always might be differences in decision making mechanisms.
Amir Abdolahian declared that successes on the field provided great support to Iranian diplomacy in international negotiations. He added that Soleimani has considered the field and the diplomacy as two legs to protect Iran’s national security and interests.
Repercussion the US too
Zarif’s leaked conversation caused waves in the US too. Former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo demanded that John Kerry must be investigated, because the leakage had shown that he has provided information about Israel to the Iranian Foreign Minister. The Republican Member of the House of Representatives, Jim Banks went further and called Kerry to resign. Banks also demanded an investigation on whether other members of the Obama administration had leaked any information to Iran.
The former US Secretary of State, John Kerry replied via twitter. He negated what Zarif says in the leaked conversation. Zarif claimed that Kerry had provided him with the information that Israel attacked Iran 200 times.
In the leakage, Zarif is heard saying ‘the field has to serve the diplomacy, but I had to sacrifice diplomacy for the sake of the field’. Soleimani’s daughter, Zeinab Soleimani answered via social media by sharing her father’s photo after being attacked, with the words ‘the cost of the field for diplomacy’.
The Supreme Leader of the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khamenei spoke to the Iranian people in a televised speech. He elaborated on the leaked conversation without mentioning Zarif’s name.
He declared that some government authorities had said words that were surprising and saddening, that some of these words were a repetition of the enemy’s hatred speeches. He said that expressions were used which repeated the American discourse.
Khamenei: No words expressions be used that resemble the enemy’s words
Khamenei emphasized that the US has been uncomfortable with Iranian influence in the region for years and killed Qasem Soleimani for this reason. He warned that no words that resemble the enemy’s expressions should be used on Soleimani and the Quds Force.
The Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution also reminded in his speech that no Foreign Ministry in no country of the world determines foreign policy. He emphasized that in Iran all authority for foreign policy lies in the hand of the Supreme National Security Council. Parts of his speech were also published on social media, using the hash tag ‘great mistake’.
Will the leak in your opinion affect the negotiations with the US? If so, in what way?
I don’t think that the leak of Zarif’s conversation will affect the ongoing negotiations in Vienna negatively. Besides of these negotiations, it is obvious that the leak has deeply affected the domestic politics in both Iran and the US.
Do you expect any effects on the election process in Iran?
Leaving aside the leak, I can state that Iran is heading towards the most important presidential elections since the Islamic Revolution. The leak will in that context obviously affect the process of candidacy. You must remember that Zarif’s name had been circulating since 2015 as the follower of Rouhani for the President’s position. Although Zarif had declared in the past weeks several times that he would not candidate, rumors were widespread among political insiders that he would go for the position of the Presidency. We can now say that his path to the Presidency has terminated before it had began.
Calls in Iran to refrain from elections
Another important aspect is the question, how the thoughts of Zarif in the leaked conversation will affect voters’ participation in the elections. Political figures such as Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani have been calling for some time already to refrain from voting.
Ever since the Revolution the Iranian state on the other side has always attached great importance to a high voter participation in elections. Because in their view, a high voter turnout reflects the legitimacy of the Islamic Revolution and signals ongoing popular support.
I think that the leaked conversation of Zarif will affect voters’ participation in the election. Zarif was also a strong candidate for the Reformers Fraction, which has been left without a leader after Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s death. Therefore, the leak has affected the Reformers negatively.