TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign minister said Wednesday that he favors a “smart adjustment” between the military and diplomatic spheres, in his first public reaction to leaked audio of him bemoaning the influence of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Mohammad Javad Zarif also said he regretted that the leak had triggered “domestic infighting,” amid a furious reaction from conservative figures and media outlets.
“I was very sorry that a secret theoretical talk regarding the need for synergy between diplomacy and the (military) field … turns into domestic infighting,” Iran’s top diplomat said on his Instagram account.
“Honest and passionate” argument in a private setting had been misconstrued as “personal criticism,” he wrote.
But Zarif also appeared to stick by the core argument that he made in the leaked audio.
He said on Wednesday that the “main point” of his remarks in the audio — in which he says the military has too much influence on diplomacy — is emphasizing “the need for a smart adjustment of the relationship between” diplomacy and the military.
Zarif also said Wednesday that he saw a need for “setting priorities through legal structures and under the great purview of the supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has ordered a probe to identify who leaked the “stolen” three-hour recording.
Rouhani said Wednesday that the leak was aimed at sowing “discord” in the Islamic Republic during talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.
“It was published right when the Vienna (talks) were at the height of their success, so that it creates discord inside” Iran, Rouhani told a meeting of his cabinet in televised remarks.
His relatively moderate government has sought to downplay the remarks, which were leaked ahead of the June elections and as Iran and world powers discuss ways to revive the nuclear accord.
“In the Islamic Republic the military field rules,” Zarif said in the audio tape, published by several media outlets outside Iran on Sunday. “I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy.”
Comments he made about Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s foreign operations arm who was killed in a US airstrike last year, especially hit a nerve, with Zarif specifically addressing that in his Instagram post.
“I have had the honor of deep friendship and cooperation with haj Qassem (Soleimani) for more than two decades,” he wrote, noting that he has repeatedly reminded the world of Soleimani’s “humanity, peacefulness and courage.”
He also defended his track record by stressing that he has “always followed the country’s internally agreed policies and strongly defended them.”
“Safeguarding the country’s interests and… (those of) the patient and valiant people of Iran is an oath I will stand by until the last moment,” Zarif pledged. “But I have considered appeasement and self-censorship in expert opinion to be a betrayal.”