Khamenei To Address Nation As Zarifgate Rocks Iran
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will address the nation on Sunday as heated reactions to controversial remarks by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a leaked audio file continue five days after it was first reported by Iran International TV.
Iran’s state-controlled media made the short announcement in the early hours of Saturday, May 1, without providing any information about what the leader will speak about. However, amid one of the worst political scandals in Iran it is obvious what the topic would be.
Since Zarif’s tape was made public by Iran International, a political firestorm has hit Iran but Khamenei remained conspicuously silent. As the ultimate decider, his position can determine Zarif’s future in Iran.
Zarif's remarks in a three-hour segment of a longer interview, supposedly not meant to be published, exposed a deep rift between the presidential administration and the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps that has increasingly dominated the state. Zarif said that the military has taken control of Iran's foreign policy and he also criticized Russia for sinister intentions of preventing good relations between Iran and the West.
Friday morning, rallies were held against Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani in the religious cities of Qom and Mashhad where clerics have a strong presence. In the meantime, Zarif has been travelling to several Persian Gulf countries in a tour that appears to have dragged on perhaps to make sure that when he returns to Tehran the dust would be settled.
On Friday, the firebrand Friday Imam of Mashhad, Ahmad Alamolhoda, lashed out at the Rouhani administration and charged that the file was leaked to cover up the failure of the 2015 nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.
Alamolhoda, who is an ardent supporter of khamenei, also claimed that it was the United States that created the Islamic State group, and said former Qods Force "Qasem Soleimani made America look miserable."
In another developmentcon Thursday, conservative cleric Massih Mohajeri, the editor of Jomhouri Eslami newspaper, said the reason why some Iranians have been shocked by Zarif's remarks was that he kept silent about all those sensitive matters for eight years and suddenly spoke out in this leaked interview.
Mohajeri said, "what Zarif did was a bad move, not because he should have not talked about these matters, most importantly the IRGC's upper hand in Iranian politics and Russia's influence on the IRGC, but because he kept absolutely silent about those sensitive matters for eight years."
In yet another development, former IRGC commander and the current secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei lashed out at Zarif and defended Soleimani's legacy, refuting Zarif's suggestion that the former commander killed by an American airstrike in Baghdad in 2020 played Russia's game.
Meanwhile, proreform figure Mostafa Hashemi Taba wrote an article in the reformist newspaper Sharq on Thursday defending Zarif's position. He said Zarif could have spoken in a way that would benefit him in the Iranian political atmosphere, but he explained how he put the foreign ministry at the service of military operations on the ground.
He said the bad thing about the interview was not what he said, it was about the media outlet that broadcast it. Hashemi Taba called Iran International "belligerent media."
President Rouhani earlier said that the contents of the file were not confidential although he did not like it to be leaked.
Observers in Iran and abroad, noted that what Iranian officials did not like was the fact that the information about the nature of the IRGC and Soleimani's moves and their links to Russia have been revealed to the Iranian public, otherwise, Russian influence on the Islamic Republic was a matter of fact to political observers.