In a leaked audiotape that offers a glimpse into the behind-the scenes power struggles of Iranian leaders, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Revolutionary Guards Corps call the shots, overruling many government decisions and ignoring advice.
In one extraordinary moment on the tape that surfaced Sunday, Mr. Zarif departed from the reverential official line on Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Guards’ elite Quds Force, the foreign-facing arm of Iran’s security apparatus, who was killed by the United States in January 2020.
The general, Mr. Zarif said, undermined him at many steps, working with Russia to sabotage the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and adopting policies toward Syria’s long war that damaged Iran’s interests.
“In the Islamic Republic the military field rules,” Mr. Zarif said in a three-hour taped conversation that was a part of an oral history project documenting the work of the current administration. “I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy.”
choreograph steps toward returning to a deal.
“The structure of our foreign ministry is mostly security oriented,” Mr. Zarif said.
Mr. Zarif said he was kept in the dark on government actions — sometimes to his embarrassment.
On the night that Iran decided to retaliate against the United States for the killing of General Suleimani, two Quds Force commanders went to see the Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, to inform him that in about 45 minutes Iran would be firing missiles at a military base where U.S. troops were stationed, Mr. Zarif said. The Americans knew about the strike before he did.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry informed him that Israel had attacked Iranian interests in Syria at least 200 times, to his astonishment, Mr. Zarif said.
downing of a Ukrainian jetliner in Iran that killed 176 on board on the morning after Iran attacked the air base.
The Guards knew immediately that their missiles had hit the plane, but only admitted to it three days later.
Soon after the plane was brought down, Mr. Zarif attended a small meeting of the national security council with two top military commanders, and said the world was demanding an explanation. The commanders, he said, attacked him and told him to send out a tweet saying the news was not true.
“I said, ‘If it was hit by a missile, tell us so we can see how we can resolve it,’” Mr. Zarif recalled. “God is my witness, the way they reacted to me is as if I had denied the existence of God.”