Rouhani Orders Probe Into Who Leaked Zarif Tape, Critics Lash Government
President Hassan Rouhani has ordered an investigation into who leaked the audio of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, which has created a storm abroad and at home, government spokesman Ali Rabiei announced Tuesday [April 27].
Rabiei called the revelation, on April 25, of the three-hour long audio file by Iran International TV the result of theft. He said Rouhani had ordered the Intelligence Ministry to find out who had passed the recording to "hostile media abroad” so that any culprit could be punished.
"We believe that this stealing of documents is a conspiracy against the system, government, domestic solidity and…against our national interests," Rabiei said. He suggested that Zarif would clear up any "misunderstandings" when he returned from his current visit to regional countries.
Rabiei explained that the interview - conducted by Saeed Laylaz, a commentator sympathetic to Rouhani - was part of an oral history project covering the eight years of Rouhani's presidency by the presidential office's Center for Strategic Studies (CSS).
The investigation is unlikely to placate Rouhani’s critics. While hardliners have joined in attacking Iran International, calling it and other Persian-language media tools of hostile foreign governments and exiled opposition groups, their main targets are domestic.
In a social media post, Kian Abdollahi, chief editor of Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), said that Hesamoddin Ashena, head of the CSS, was alongside his associates Rouhani and Zarif the “top culprits” in leaking the audio.
Abdollahi suggested that either Zarif himself or some in Rouhani’s government opposed to Zarif − a possible candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, when Rouhani is ineligible – might have leaked the recording with the election in mind. But Abdollahi surmised that Iran International’s role suggested that someone "beyond the government and Zarif" was involved.
"Iran International and the opposition aligned with it clearly support boycotting the elections," Abdollahi noted. Leaking a tape with Zarif complaining about the IRGC, he suggested, might have been seen as a way to undermine any candidate with a background in the Guards.
Kayhan newspaper on Tuesday splashed the headline "Pro-West Authorities Forced Zarif to Commit Suicide" across its front page. It charged that Zarif's remarks had offered “coordinates and ammunition to the enemy's psychological warfare network" so they knew "where to hit, on which gaps and possible cracks to focus, and how to fight [Iranian] public opinion!" Kayhan pointed its finger at Laylaz over the leak.