An audio recording of what some experts believe to be a secret speech by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was shown on a Persian news channel in London. The audio culminated with his criticism of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and their late commander Qassem Soleimani. The leaked tape is believed to have been aimed at undermining any hope of Zarif running for president, while other experts believe it may be his excuse for the failures of the Iranian foreign policy he leads. Regardless of all this, the audio tape exposes the “backroom war” that has recently escalated in the system, and will hold hardliners, who are likely to win the presidential election in June, responsible for the country’s economic ills if diplomatic negotiations with the West fail.
It would seem that Tehran’s perspective on foreign policy has changed. But this is only at first glance, and nothing has happened in Iran’s permanent foreign policy course. In a televised speech, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei emphasized the role of Iran’s elite Quds Force in helping Iran conduct active diplomacy in the West Asian region. He stated clearly and explicitly that the Quds Force has played a crucial role in strengthening the diplomatic course in the region, noting that these forces have actualized an independent and dignified Iranian foreign policy in the region. The leader noted that the Quds Force protected the country and its people from submission to the West, which constantly insists that the country’s foreign policy be oriented toward them.
Under such circumstances, Zarif had no choice but to thank the leader of the Islamic Revolution for his understanding of foreign policy. In his Instagram post, the foreign minister wrote that foreign policy should be a field for uniting the nation, led by the nation’s highest official. Zarif’s leaked comments are highly controversial in Iran, where officials watch their words closely in a tough political environment that includes a powerful revolutionary guard ultimately controlled by the country’s supreme leader. In the interview itself, Foreign Minister Zarif bitterly stated that he had “zero” influence over Iran’s foreign policy.
However, the audio recording reveals much more than Zarif’s criticism of the IRGC, stresses the Kuwaiti newspaper Kuwait Times. It also reveals a structural problem in the Iranian system. The duality of power between the state and the revolution begins to weigh on Iran.