Not much was new in Zarif’s leaked voice file; but it sounded like a confession before the people.
In the Persian month of Ordibehesht (April-May), Tehran often sees hail and flood-like rains. Last Saturday and Sunday, Tehran saw severe lightning and unstoppable rain. The horizon of 42-year-old republic was also hit by lightnings caused by the leak of an audio interview with foreign minister, Javad Zarif.
In an interview with economist Sayeed Laylaz, Zarif said words that shook the Iranian people. Not because they didn’t know this but because they now heard it from an insider. In the very first days of the revolution, the republic jettisoned patriotism and love of Iran. Instead, Shiite Islam, the Supreme Leader and safeguarding the cause of the regime became, as Iranian clerics like to say, “the most prior of priorities.”
As the republic entrenched itself further and attempted to get rid of all heritage of nationalism and downplay the patriotism of Iranian people, it met with the rock of resistance of a people who attempted to stop this betrayal of Iran.
Zarif is among the experts of the Islamic Republic who has studied in the West and the way he dressed and talked and behaved was a relief for a people who were sick of the republic’s diplomats who for decades were known for their heavy smell of sweat and unwashed clothes.
Mr. Zarif looked like and behaved like a proper polite Iranian and this was liked by many who, despite their grievances against the government, saw something different in its foreign minister.
The foreign minister wanted to emphasize this image of being different. But now, in a shocking development, we heard him speak openly of how the military groups tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) set policy against Iran’s national interests.
There was nothing new in the Zarif voice file but it sounded like a confession before the people that blamed everything on the “battlefield,” an allegory for the IRGC.
In 2015 in Vienna, as the Iranian nuclear deal was reached, I could see the happiness of all Iranian reporters, whether those in Iran or abroad; we could see this as a rally of national unity. We all wanted the conditions of the Iranian people to get better, for Iran to be stronger and to rediscover its place in the world. We said that was a historic deal and its hero was no other than Mohammad Javad Zarif who became known as a popular figure in the region and beyond.
In rewards for the deal with the West, Iranians compared him with the most honored symbol of patriotism in our contemporary history, the 19th century prime minister Amir Kabir.
But on May 2, 2021, following the attacks on him by Supreme Leader Khamenei, Zarif took to his Instagram to apologize to him for having dismayed him.
When Amir Kabir started his reform program, he met with opposition from the powerful mother of Iran’s Qajar monarch, Naseredin Shah. The mother was able to bring the shah to order Amir Kabir’s dismissal and murder. When he was deported out of capital to Kashan, Amir Kabir knew what he would inevitably face. But he preferred giving his life over humiliation.
Mr. Zarif did not resign. He was not dismissed. He preferred to remain in the regime he is loyal to and to apologize to his boss. He did not prefer Iran and its people but he unwittingly gave them a great service.
In the voice file, the phrase “battlefield” had been vague. The lightning that came on Sunday showed who really was behind the “battlefield”: the Supreme Leader.
Khamenei’s words made many question the motives behind the 2015 talks. His words on Sunday showed that the negotiating team led by Zarif was not pursuing genuine national interest of Iranians. The Iran deal (JCPOA) was a personal policy for Khamenei, towards the interests of the regime. Zarif might have even been punished for what the deal lacked in this regard.
The talks go on again today as the Supreme Leader needs more financial resources to entrench his regime and the security-military groups that keep it up. The reason Zarif is not dismissed is that he is needed for the current talks.
Khamenei’s speech on May 2 also took place on the anniversary of another great historic event: 125th anniversary of Nasseredin Shah’s assassination in Shah Abdolazim Shrine in Tehran. The king that blocked the path to Iran’s progress by killing Amir Kabir in Kashan was now killed himself by the bullet of Mirza Reza Kermani. The Shah had ruled for 50 years and it looked like his reign was going to be eternal but his era came to an end, like any other.
In its thousands of years of history, Iran has been involved in an endless battle between autocrats and those fighting for change. Autocrats come and go but Iran, even if wounded and injured, remains.
During the reign of Nasseredin Shah’s successor, Mozaffaredin Shah, the constitutional revolution opened a new chapter in Iranian history. Mirza Reza’s bullet affected even the next king who soon had to give up his absolutist powers and agree to a constitution. Those who do not serve their people but the ruling despot won’t leave a good name for themselves in history. What remains is Iran and its good men and women.