Middle East/North Africa

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard overrides government decisions, foreign minister says

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was heard saying in a leaked audio clip that the country’s Revolutionary Guard overrules many government decisions and calls the shots.

In recordings that surfaced on Sunday, Zarif said deceased Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani frequently undermined him and acted in ways that went against Iran’s interests, The New York Times reports. Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone strike last year that severely strained U.S.-Iran relations.

“In the Islamic Republic the military field rules,” Zarif said in the recording. “I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy.”

However, Zarif also praised the late general, saying they had worked well together.

The Times notes that Zarif’s statements appear to confirm long-held suspicions that his role as Iran’s foreign minister is severely restricted. It is unclear how this recording will affect Zarif, who is considered to be a potential candidate in Iran’s presidential election in June.

Zarif’s admission of undermined power may also threaten nuclear talks with Western powers who are seeking to reenter a nuclear deal with Iran, as his authority may be seen as unsubstantial. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed the talks that have taken place in Vienna as “not worth looking at.”

In the tapes, Zarif acknowledges that his powers during negotiations are constrained by both Khamenei as well as the Revolutionary Guard.

“The structure of our foreign ministry is mostly security oriented,” Zarif said.

The foreign minister also said he was at times kept in the dark on some government actions, the Times reports.

The recording was of a conversation in March between Zarif and economist Saeed Leylaz. It was first leaked to London-based Farsi-language news channel Iran International, which shared it with The Times.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh did not dispute the authenticity of the recording, the Times reports.

Zarif’s critics began calling for his resignation on Sunday night, the Times reports, saying he had threatened national security with his remarks. Others expressed concerns that Zarif’s statements may lead to an apathetic turnout in the upcoming elections, as many may feel elected officials are not truly in charge.

Tags Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Iran Iran Iran Revolutionary Guard Mohammad Javad Zarif Qassem Soleimani

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