Former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is once again at the center of the internal debate between supporters and opponents of the previous government’s approach to the nuclear negotiations.
Zarif responded to criticism of him in an Instagram post after he explained his reasons for not running for president in an interview.
In an interview published last week, Zarif revealed details of a meeting with former reformist President Mohammad Khatami and Hassan Khomeini, head of his grandfather’s foundation, Iran’s first supreme leader.
He indicated that he had been pressured to run for the presidency, but announced the next day that he was not a candidate.
Zarif told Khatami that people would be punished for voting for him in the same way they would be punished for voting for Rouhani for a second term in the 2017 election, adding that he doesn’t see that his candidacy would benefit the country.
He also referred to a letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in which he stressed that he had no intention of taking part in the elections, saying, “I swore I had no intention of taking part in the elections.”
Zarif also urged Khamenei to advise friends not to refer to the nuclear deal in the elections.
The last Iranian presidential election saw the lowest turnout since the 1979 revolution.
Before last year’s election, Zarif was a front-runner for the pro-government coalition in the presidential election, but audio leaked in April removed him from the running.
In an audio leak, Zarif criticizes Russia’s role in the nuclear negotiations and accuses Moscow of turning the tables on Iran talks.
The former official also criticized the lack of compatible field activities and diplomacy in regional politics in the first statement by an official on the influence of the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on Iranian diplomacy.
In the new interview, Zarif said he learned about the audio recording leak three days before the release from Hessameddin Ashena, then director of the Presidency Research Center.
Zarif notes that two reformist politicians with ties to General Qassem Soleimani contacted him and confirmed that the recording was leaked.
“I see no reason for that [leak] Except for the conspiracy,” he said.
A few days after the interview, a video with old statements by Zarif on the nuclear deal and the Vienna talks between Iran and the 5+1 group was leaked.
The IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency reported that Zarif accused his critics of not being able to write the nuclear deal.
The agency wondered about the timing of the new leak, saying reformist media activists and politicians were trying to suggest that the negotiating team in the current government lacked the necessary skills to negotiate.
Zarif addressed the case of the assassination of scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom Western and Israeli governments have long suspected of masterminding a secret nuclear weapons program.
He said Fakhrizadeh was one of the “most careless people” on security and he hadn’t listened to his security team, adding that Israel’s goal is to destroy the nuclear deal.
Zarif was protesting a new law passed by parliament after the assassination of Fakhrizadeh, after which Tehran committed advanced nuclear violations.
In response to Zarif’s remarks, Fachrizadeh’s son Hamid wrote: “I wish I could be like you and say what I want to say without considering the country’s interests and national security issues.”
Iran’s Parliament passed the Strategic Action Plan to Counter US Sanctions Law two days after Fakhrizadeh’s assassination.
Meanwhile, Spokesman Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf’s team responded to Zarif’s criticism of the nuclear obligations reduction law.
The state-run Mehr news agency quoted Advisor to the Spokesman for Strategic Affairs Mehdi Mohammadi as saying it is not difficult to understand the reason for the hatred of the likes of Zarif over the Strategic Action Plan.
Noting that this law proved their mistakes in strategic assessments, Mohammadi added that Ghalibaf waged a covert war for five months to prepare for the passage of this law.