Zarif resignation prompted by Assad visit to Iran

Javad Zarif was prompted to resign as foreign minister on Monday after Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani went over the foreign ministry’s head to invite Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Iran, three official sources close to Tehran’s foreign ministry have confirmed to Rudaw.

By inviting Assad without Zarif’s knowledge, Soleimani demonstrated just how much influence the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has over Iran’s foreign policy.

Soleimani commands the IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds Force, which implements Iran’s military objectives in Syria, Iraq, and further afield.

The invitation appears to have been the final straw for Zarif, who announced his resignation on social media platform Instagram just a few hours later.

“I am the foreign minister and any foreign official who comes here should come through my office,” Zarif reportedly told Hassan Rouhani, when the reformist president invited him to meet Assad, according to Rudaw’s sources.

“They went over my head. This is undermining my authority.”

Widely seen as a moderating voice in Tehran, Zarif has made no secret of his differences with Iran’s hardliners and in particular within the IRGC.

Among his chief gripes with the hardliners is the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which he helped negotiate, and the Paris based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for combating money laundering and terrorism financing, which Iran is yet to join.

US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May last year, reimposeding sanctions on Tehran. The move gave Iran’s hardliners ammunition to attack Zarif’s moderate agenda and the deal itself.

Zarif is yet to officially explain his reasons for resigning. But in an interview conducted last week with the Jomhouri Eslami newspaper and published Tuesday, Zarif hinted at his differences with hardliners and the IRGC.

“A deadly poison for foreign policy is when foreign policy becomes the subject of factional and political infighting,” he told the paper, referring to criticism leveled at him and Rouhani since Trump withdraw from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

Zarif said his task as negotiator had become impossible in the face of attacks by hardliners, who equate negotiation with the west with “compromise” and even “treason”.

Media outlets and social media platforms affiliated with the hardliners have intensified their attacks on Zarif, with FARS news agency quoting an anonymous source within the foreign ministry who describes the minister as emotionally “sensitive”.

An official Quds Force Telegram channel posted a photo of Zarif next to Qassim Soleimani stating: “Who is the real hero? One who steps into artillery- and tank-fire and wins under internal and external pressures … or the one who shows off … and destroys the Iranian economy and at the end cannot tolerate criticism and leaves the scene?”

In the interview, Zarif warned of the consequences if Iran failed to join FATF, which would cut off Iran’s weakened banking system from the global financial system altogether.

“The FATF is a fact in today’s world which is above the will of states … not only the Europeans say resolve your issues with FATF, but the Chinese, the Russians, the Indians, and South Africans are saying the same thing,” Zarif said.

He shared his frustration at the way the powerful Guardian council blocked the four amendments Iran needed to implement to be removed from FATF’s blacklist.

In January, the Expediency Council, which mediates between the parliament and the Guardian Council, passed one of the bills blocked by the Council, which was seen as a major step towards Iran’s compliance with FATF.

The hardliners, particularly those in the IRGC, are against Iran joining the FATF because it could undermine the Guards ability to transfer funds to allies such as Lebanese Hezbollah and other paramilitary groups listed as terrorist organizations by the US and EU.

There were rumors on Tuesday that a number of employees and officials at the foreign ministry have resigned in sympathy with Zarif.

Zarif responded by confirming his resignation, but urged his colleagues to continue with their duties with “firmness and to avoid taking such an action.”

“Serving alongside you was an honor and I hope that my resignation is a wake-up call so the foreign ministry would reoccupy its constitutional place in foreign relations,” FARS reports.

Source » rudaw

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