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Source: Iranintl

Mar 25, 2024

Zarif’s Memoir And The Rhetoric Of Iran's 'Moderate' Faction

By Majid Mohammadi

Upon leaving office, politicians often resort to writing books to claim that: "I was an important person. I did my job well. They did not appreciate me. Now, you can take advantage and benefit from my experience."

But with his memoir published in Persian in Tehran, The Depth of Patience (or The Audacity of Resilience), former Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif seeks to do much more than that.

Zarif – whose role as Minister was really an illusion – tries to draw an effective and decisive case for the role of the Foreign Ministry. All the while, he was never part of the real game.

In an interview with the Jamaran website in Tehran, Zarif says that he was never seen as an "insider" and that he was considered "to be on his way out" from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – and that is why, he claims, the employees of the ministry did not click the like button for his tweets.

Zarif was often left out of key foreign policy developments, such as during Bashar al-Assad's controversial trip to Iran in 2019, or he was left in the dark about Iran’s attack on the Ain al-Assad US base. At the same time, the Iraqi prime minister had prior knowledge of the attack, while he remained in the dark.

In his memoir, he fails to say what his master plan was – or even what his tenure achieved in eight years, during which millions of dollars of Iranian resources were squandered on numerous foreign trips.

He could have said that improving relations with the West and easing the burdens of the people are not possible within the confines of the current regime – and that the Iranian people have no choice but to overthrow it. But, steadfast in his loyalty to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, he did not dare to do so.

In his writings, Zarif consistently portrays himself as unaware of the purpose for which he was chosen: He was picked not for his capabilities, skill in deception or even being a good liar – but, because he could spearhead a lobbying effort in America to sell the idea of a peaceful nature of the nuclear program.

Former Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif (right) and former IRGC Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani

Zarif was chosen to champion the JCPOA at a crucial juncture when the regime sought European involvement on the issue, to advance its own regional expansion agenda. All the while, Khamenei and the IRGC harbored distrust toward him. For this reason, ambassadors to regional countries were appointed not by him, but by Qassem Soleimani.

Illusions of success

Zarif's eight-year tenure was nothing short of a glaring failure in foreign policy and diplomacy, with the regime’s nuclear program, terrorism, and expansionism setting the stage for this dismal outcome.

One prominent example showcasing his foreign policy shortcomings, and indicative of his limited authority, occurred in 2016.

Just months after the nuclear deal was agreed on, attacks on the Saudi missions in Iran undermined then-President Hassan Rouhani and shattered any illusion of moderation in Iran's foreign policy. Orchestrated by so-called hardliners, the attacks signaled to the West that Khamenei’s nefarious agenda would continue – deal or no deal.

Despite the Rouhani administration's alleged intention to de-escalate tensions with the West, after the failure of political reforms by the reformists, and to foster better foreign relations – by the end of Zarif’s eight-year term, there were no tangible achievements to show for his efforts.

The most important delicate waste

To sweep his lack of success under the rug, Zarif chooses to sidestep crucial matters in his book and focuses solely on peripheral issues.

One way Zarif infamously justified his abysmal record is by using the phrase "we chose ourselves" – a phrase that shifts the responsibility for the choices made by the Islamic Republic, along with its policies and programs, onto the people indefinitely.

This particular statement has long angered Iranian dissidents, who argue that there was a revolution 45 years ago with the intention of creating a more democratic country, but clerics steered the new regime towards a dictatorship. Even if a choice was made in 1979, people have a right to demand change after four decades.

Former foreign minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif (left) and former US secretary of state John Kerry

In his book, he changes the content of his baseless phrase; Choosing it as a title (TDP, p. 27) he instead discusses idealism and realism in foreign policy – irrelevant to the context of the original meaning of his statement.

While the title of Zarif’s book aims to highlight his purported patience and perseverance, the only areas where the former Minister demonstrated such traits were in deception, manipulating the public, covering up misdeeds, and self-promotion before Ali Khamenei and IRGC commanders.

Two key challenges

As a diplomat who claims the art of persuasion and justification, Zarif faced two significant challenges during his tenure, wherein his success was notably lacking.

The first involved maintaining regular relations with Ali Khamenei, necessitating the balance of praising the Supreme Leader while disliking his Russophile policy.

In this context, he demonstrates his allegiance to Khamenei by portraying him as a servant of the nation and the country, asserting, "The cornerstone of the Leader's approach to foreign policy has always been grounded in honor." (TDP, p. 101)

Then, he defines honor, stating, "He is exceedingly vigilant and meticulous regarding the constitution, prioritizing national dignity and thwarting any attempts by foreign powers to exert dominance over the Islamic Republic." (ibid.)

Zarif refutes assertions portraying the Leader as a revolutionary, which imply a disregard for international regulations.

In the case of the IRGC's downing of Ukrainian Flight PS752 in 2020 and the regime's initial three-day denial of responsibility, Zarif once again attempts to deceive the reader.

Zarif tries to present himself as a brave and expedient person in deception and concealment and complains that he was not allowed to "cure" (justify and trowel) the issue. (TDP, p. 139)

Years after leaving office, Zarif is still trying to wash his own hands and absolve himself of any responsibility.

Majid Mohammadi is an Iranian-American sociologist and political analyst, who contributes opinion and analysis to Persian, Arabic, and English news outlets. He has published dozens of books.

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