Iran’s foreign minister has stressed his “long-time” friendship with Lieutenant General Qassem Solemani prior to the national hero’s martyrdom early last year, explaining that the remarks he is heard making in a leaked audio file, in which he sounds critical of some of the general’s actions, were segments from a confidential, pathologically-oriented argument meant to help boost convergence between the country’s military and diplomatic apparatus.
“I have been shouting out the vigor, humanity, pacifism and courage of Martyr Soleimani, not just before the great people of Iran and not only today, but before the entire world and for more than two decades,” Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday morning.
Zarif also attached a video of himself paying tribute to the late general on Tuesday while visiting a memorial built at the location of his assassination near Baghdad International Airport.
General Soleimani headed Iran’s anti-terror campaign in the region as the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force until his martyrdom, on January 3, 2020, in a drone strike directly ordered by former US president Donald Trump.
Zarif said he once again felt proud of Iranian heroes while standing next to the symbol of Trump’s desperate and criminal act.
“I have pointed out time and again that if peace has been established in Afghanistan and Iraq and if Daesh’s terrorism has been defeated, more than anythying else, it is owed to the wisdom and courage of General Soleimani and the bravery and self-sacrifice of the people of those lands,” he noted.
The remarks came days after parts of an audiotape of a classified discussion between Zarif and economist Saeed Laylaz were leaked to so-called Iran International, a Saudi-funded news channel based in London.
During the leaked dialog, recorded on February 24 as part of an "oral history” project of the current administration, the foreign minister sounded critical of the primacy of what he called “the field” over “diplomacy” under the Iranian government.
While wishing diplomacy could play a bigger role in Iran’s foreign policy, Zarif, throughout the dialog, repeatedly hailed General Soleimani’s regional activities and underlined his close cooperation with him throughout years.
However, the comments led to a fierce debate within the country, with many questioning his stance regarding General Soleimani’s regional role.
“Reducing a theoretical debate on the relationship between the two wings of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s power abroad, namely diplomacy and the field, to a pretext for polarizing [Iran’s] upright servicemen and zealous diplomats, who strive for Iran’s dignity and glory, is not only short-sighted but in complete contradiction with views of this student of international relations (himself), who deems the field and diplomacy as synergistic and complementary,” Zarif wrote in his Instagram post.
Zarif explained that the key point he made during the leaked dialog was that Tehran should establish a clever relationship between the two wings of Iran’s foreign policy and determine its priorities under the instruction of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution.
He also mentioned that his friendship and cooperation with General Soleimani continued and deepened throughout more than two decades that he knew the general.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Zarif’s remarks should be analyzed holistically and not be cherry-picked.
The Islamic Republic’s stance cannot be represented through a selected segment of a talk, Khatibzadeh added.
Ali Rabiei, the Rouhani administration’s spokesman, said on Tuesday that the president has ordered the Intelligence Ministry to identify those behind the leakage.
“The audio file was released by a vengeful television network, which is funded by petrodollars and has been fervently supporting the sufferings and intimidation of the Iranian nation ever since it was established. This is indicative of the fact that the interview was broadcast conspiratorially and selectively,” Rabiei said.