Iran International report: Zarif accused Soleimani of directing Iranian foreign policy

Iran International report: Zarif accused Soleimani of directing Iranian foreign policy
Qassem Soleimani (left), who led Iran's Quds Force, had a direct role in the regime's broader diplomatic policies, Zarif is reported to claim in an unpublished interview. (AFP/Files)
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Updated 25 April 2021

Iran International report: Zarif accused Soleimani of directing Iranian foreign policy

Iran International report: Zarif accused Soleimani of directing Iranian foreign policy
  • Leaked interview recording hears veteran foreign minister say Iran’s military operations dictated diplomacy

LONDON: Iran’s foreign minister said he was forced to sacrifice diplomacy in favor of operations by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to a leaked audio recording.
The three-hour interview with Mohammad Javad Zarif, which was obtained by the London-based Iran International television channel, reveals the extent of the IRGC’s control over foreign policy.
Zarif said Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Guard’s Quds Force, which is responsible for overseas operations, had a direct hand over broader foreign policy. 
Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad in January last year. As one of Iran’s most powerful figures, he oversaw the regime’s proxy militias in countries like Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
According to Iran International, Zarif said Soleimani’s influence meant he had to further a diplomacy that served Iran’s military operations in the region. 
“On the other hand, I have never been able to ask Soleimani to do something that would serve my diplomatic moves,” he said.
He accused Soleimani of ignoring his pleas to refrain from using the Iranian national airline for transportation to Syria. 
He said Soleimani’s pressure led to a dramatic increase in flights to Damascus.
A number of Iranian airlines have been sanctioned for ferrying fighters and weapons into Syria to support Bashar Assad during the conflict.
The recording was an interview with journalist Saeed Laylaz in March but intended for publication after President Hassan Rouhani leaves office in August, the channel said.
Zarif said Iran prioritized its war operations over diplomacy and that his role in determining Iran’s foreign policy was “nil.”
He added that a visit by Soleimani to Moscow immediately after the 2015 nuclear deal was made was an attempt to destroy the agreement.

Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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