Leaking of foreign minister’s private conversation was intended to spark ‘division’ in Iran, President Rouhani says
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that a private conversation involving the country’s foreign minister was leaked in order to disrupt the talks on Iran’s nuclear program and to stoke discord in Tehran.
“The audio tape has been released by those who are against Iran, people of Iran and the interests of Iran at the exact juncture that [the negotiation] in Vienna is at the height of success, in order to create division in the country,” Rouhani said, as cited by Iran’s Tasnim news agency.
Rouhani said that the opinions expressed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the leaked audio do not necessarily reflect his views and the views of his administration. He previously ordered the intelligence agencies to investigate the leak.
The president added that “diplomacy and field” – meaning Iran’s diplomats and the military – are parts of the same government and do not act against each other’s interests. Rouhani’s comment appears to be a response to Western media outlets that interpreted the audio as Zarif criticizing Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for interfering in his talks with foreign powers.Also on rt.com Iran decries ‘cherry-picked’ & ‘illegal’ reports of classified chat that claim foreign minister revealed power struggles with army
The three-hour audio was taken from a longer conversation between Zarif and Iranian journalist and economist Saeed Laylaz that is said to have been recorded as part of an oral history project about Rouhani’s two terms in office. The leak happened ahead of Iran’s presidential election, which is scheduled for June.
The New York Tomes quoted Zarif as saying in the recording: “I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy.” The Financial Times reported that Zarif said that senior IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a US drone strike in Iraq last year, was instructing him how to handle negotiations.
Zarif was said to have fired shots at IRGC for allegedly initially trying to cover up the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger airliner over Iran amid a war scare with the US shortly after Soleimani's assassination. Tehran eventually admitted to destroying the plane by mistake while the military was bracing for a possible US counterattack, after a volley of rockets was launched by Iran at Iraqi bases that housed American troops in retaliation for Soleimani’s death.
Iranian officials claimed that Zarif’s comments were taken out of context and misrepresented.
Writing on his Instagram account, Zarif said he “deeply regretted” how the audio had sparked “domestic infighting.” He said that he was making a point about “the need for synergy” between the diplomatic corps and the military, and that his remarks were misconstrued as “personal criticism.”
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