Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on May 2 apologised for comments he made in a leaked recording last week in which he criticised the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the late General Qasem Soleimani. While taking to Instagram, Zarif hoped Soleimani’s family and the Iranian people would forgive him for the controversial comments. Ge also emphasized that his words do not undermine the “greatness” of Soleimani and his irreplaceable role in restoring the security of Iran.
Zarif wrote, “Some have tried to use this unfortunate situation as a means to disrupt the empathy of the brave people of this region or as a tool for short-term political goals. I should emphasize that my words do not undermine a single bit of the greatness of Martyr General Soleimani and his irreplaceable role in restoring the security of Iran, the region, and the world”.
He added, "If I had known a sentence from those words would have been made public, I certainly would not have uttered it as I did in the past. I hope that the great people of Iran and all the lovers of General (Soleimani) and especially the great family of Soleimani, will forgive me”.
Less than two months ahead of a presidential election, Zarif’s leaked recording has created a firestorm in Iran. On the recording, he criticised the IRGC’s involvement in diplomacy and charges that Soleimani maintained separate relations with Russia. The Iranian Foreign Minister also criticised his lack of influence within the country’s political system, saying that he was often left in the dark on the important foreign policy decision.
He said, “In the Islamic Republic, the military field rules...I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy”.
The leaked audio was from an interview with Zarif that was recorded on February 24 as part of an “oral history” series with the interviewer, prominent economist Saeed Laylaz. Following the leak, prosecutors in Tehran launched a criminal investigation into the matter, while hard-liners reportedly accused Zarif of “betrayal” and the “defamation” of Soleimani. The Iranian Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, said that the most controversial excerpts were taken out of context from a seven-hour conversation.
On April 28, Zarif even posted a video of himself visiting the memorial to his “longtime friend” Soleimani in Baghdad. He wrote that he favoured a “smart adjustment” between the diplomatic and military spheres in Tehran. He also noted that the leak had triggered “domestic infighting” in the first public reaction since the audio of him denouncing the influence of the military on politics.