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Friday, 18 June 2021

Iran's Zarif criticizes Guards in leaked audio

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Iran's Zarif criticizes Guards in leaked audio
Iran's Zarif criticizes Guards in leaked audio

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif used language rarely heard inside Iran to criticize the influence of the country's Revolutionary Guards Corp commanded over foreign affairs.

This report produced by Zachary Goelman.

In a leaked recording, Iran's top diplomat complained that the nation’s elite Revolutionary Guards had more influence in foreign affairs and the country's nuclear program than him.

On the tape, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif says he has “zero” influence over foreign policy.

The remarks shine a light on tensions between pragmatists such as Zarif who serve in President Hassan Rouhani’s government, and hardliners in the Revolutionary Guards, or IRGC, loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader.

These divisions underlie - and could potentially undermine - efforts at rapprochement between Tehran and the West at reviving a 2015 nuclear accord.

In the recording, leaked to a London-based news channel late on Sunday, Zarif said, "I have never been able to tell a military commander to do something in order to aid diplomacy." His spokesman did not dispute the audio's authenticity, but said the channel only aired excerpts of a seven-hour interview.

Perhaps most surprising, Zarif used language rarely heard inside Iran to talk about the late IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a U.S. airstrike last year.

Zarif complained about the extent of the major general’s influence over diplomacy, saying, “He asked me to make this or that concession or point almost every time I went to negotiate.” Although Zarif said he had no intention of running in Iran's June 18 presidential election, some critics said Zarif's comments were aimed at gaining votes from Iranians disillusioned by a stalled economy and lack of political and social freedoms.

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