Iran’s foreign minister’s criticism of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its late commander Qassem Soleimani in a leaked interview is an “unforgettable injustice,” the supreme leader’s representative in the IRGC said on Monday.
In the leaked interview, aired last week by the London-based Iran International TV station, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif complained about having little influence over foreign policy compared with the IRGC and Soleimani.
Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the overseas arm of the IRGC, and was considered the most powerful figure in Iran after the supreme leader.
He was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq in January 2020.
Zarif’s leaked comments caused an uproar among the political class in Iran, where criticism of the IRGC and Soleimani is a red line. The foreign minister has been under pressure from political rivals since the leak.
Abdollah Haji Sadeghi, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative in the IRGC, described Zarif’s leaked remarks as “false accusations” against Soleimani and the IRGC, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
“We tolerate these injustices, but we will never forget [them],” Sadeghi said.
He suggested there were “electoral motives” behind Zarif’s comments.
“Unfortunately, there are electoral motives behind … degrading great human beings, and some seek to magnify themselves by degrading other human beings.”
Iran is due to hold presidential elections on June 18, and although Zarif has said he will not run for president, some “reformists” have suggested him as a possible candidate.
Through his “baseless and false” comments, Zarif did a disservice to not only Soleimani, but to all Iranian “martyrs” and their families, Sadeghi said.
On Sunday, Khamenei described Zarif’s comments as “surprising and unfortunate,” and accused him of echoing US talking points.
Responding to Zarif’s complaints about lack of authority, Khamenei said a foreign ministry’s job is to implement policies set out by superior bodies and officials.
“Nowhere in the world does the foreign ministry determine foreign policy,” he added.
Zarif took to Instagram shortly after Khamenei’s speech, apologizing for displeasing the supreme leader.
“I am very sorry that some of my personal views... have upset the noble supreme leader,” he wrote.
Zarif had said last week his “honest” comments in the recording were mischaracterized as personal criticism.
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