Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “good riddance” on Tuesday after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif abruptly announced his resignation.
“Zarif is gone. Good riddance,” Netanyahu said of the lead negotiator of Iran’s landmark 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers that he had bitterly opposed.
“As long as I am here, Iran will never acquire nuclear weapons,” he tweeted.
Zarif resigned late Monday without warning, offering an “apology” to the nation as the nuclear deal he negotiated stands on the verge of collapse after the US withdrew last year from the accord.
The veteran diplomat first offered a vague Instagram post saying, “I apologize for my inability to continue serving and for all the shortcomings during my term in office.” The post included a drawing of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, as Monday marked the commemoration of her birth.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, confirmed to the state-run IRNA news agency minutes later that Zarif had resigned but gave no reason for his departure.
Zarif’s resignation, if accepted by Iran’s relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, would leave the cleric without one of his main allies in pushing the Islamic Republic toward further negotiations with the West.
Zarif has served as Rouhani’s foreign minister since August 2013 and has been under constant pressure and criticism by hardliners who oppose his policy of detente with the West, as well as by the Trump administration, which has hammered away at the nuclear deal he helped broker.
It remains unclear why Zarif chose to leave his post now and what effect it will have on the atomic accord, which Iran has been on record as complying with.
While former US secretary of state John Kerry established a working rapport with Zarif, the Trump administration has taken a much harder line toward the so-called moderate.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed his counterpart’s announcement on Monday, saying Zarif’s departure would not change Washington’s policy toward Iran.
“We note Zarif’s resignation. We’ll see if it sticks,” Pompeo tweeted. “Either way, he and Rouhani are just front men for a corrupt religious mafia.
“Our policy is unchanged — the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people,” he said.
Inside Iran, reaction to Zarif’s resignation was swift, with many prominent lawmakers calling on him to reconsider the decision.
On Tuesday, Iran’s semi-official Fars News agency quoted a “knowledgeable source” as saying that Zarif is expected to resume his post in the coming days.
According to the report, Zarif resigned to protest the “lack of coordination with senior officials in the administration regarding the visit of Syrian President Bashar Assad and meetings with Rouhani” that were not attended by Zarif.
Iran’s powerful parliamentary committee on national security and foreign affairs was scheduled to discuss Zarif’s resignation later Tuesday.