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Zarif Apologizes To Soleimani's Family For Comments On Leaked Tape

The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif who has been under constant fire from political rivals since his candid interview and criticism of the role of slain Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani a week ago has published an Instagram post in which he apologized to Soleimani's family. Iranian media have not reported his return to the country after a tour of Persian Gulf countries.

Zarif was in Doha after a visit to Baghdad when Iran International TV last Sunday reported and published the audio file of Zarif's controversial interview. The previously unannounced regional tour has since took him to Oman and Kuwait where he was on Thursday. On Thursday rumors surfaced about Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) raiding and searching the offices of Zarif and President Hassan Rouhani but the government website denied this on Thursday quoting "an informed source in the office of the government spokesm [Ali Rabiei]" . Zarif's long absence became conspicuous and gave rise to many comments on social media about an intentional delay in returning home for the fear of being arrested as hardliners increasingly accuse him of "sedition".

But after midday Sunday the foreign ministy website announced that Zarif had met with the ougoing South Korean ambassador in Tehran posting photos of the meeting. Earlier, there were no reports on state media or the foreign ministry website about Zarif's wherabouts.

"There are four options regarding Zarif: [Make him consent to] a televised apology, fire him, arrest him or all three," political analyst Farzaneh Roostaee said in a tweet on Saturday and pointed out Government Spokesman Ali Rabiei's remarks on Saturday about the possibility of Zarif's reversal of his views. 

In an Instagram post Saturday evening, Zarif claimed that his "bitter analysis of a historical period" which was conducted as a means of "transferring experiences to future authorities candidly" was not intended for "wide or even limited publication and apologized to Soleimani's family and his devotees for "wounding their feelings." "Pray and tell God: 'Oh Lord, I have forgiven whoever wronged me, forgive me too', then wait to see what he will do with you," he said quoting a contemporary mystic and scholar and went on to say that he would never have said what he said in the interview if he had known his criticism of Soleimani would become public knowledge.

In the recording Zarif criticized the late Iranian general and suggested that Russia had tried in 2015 to sabotage the nuclear agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has still not commented on the incident and Zarif's leaked tape but is slated to deliver a televised address to the nation early Sunday evening (18:00 local time) which is likely to touch on what has become known as the Zarifgate incident at least in part.

Khamenei's website and social media accounts in the past few days have indirectly endorsed Soleimani against Zarif. The front page of the latest edition of Khat-te Hezbollah, the weekly publication of Khamenei's office, was almost entirely dedicated to Soleimani with a photo of Khamenei, Soleimani, and the Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with the headline "Victorious Doctrine" and an editorial reviewing the "Logic of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Strategic Presence and Role in West Asia".

The front page of the weekly which is widely distributed at military and civil organizations as well as Friday prayers also bore a Khamenei quote about Soleimani under the section where every week a "martyr of the week" is introduced. The quote said Soleimani was courageous, wise, and acted on logic "not only in the battlefield but also in politics."  In the leaked audio, Zarif repeatedly complains that the "battlefield" takes precedence over diplomacy, portraying himself as the face of diplomacy and Soleimani as the embodiment of the "battlefield".


A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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