Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, issued an apology Sunday for comments that he said “annoyed” the country’s supreme leader. Recordings surfaced late last month of Zarif, long the public face of Iranian diplomacy, saying the Revolutionary Guards had far more influence in foreign and nuclear affairs than he did.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appeared to chastise Zarif during a televised speech Sunday. Khamenei did not say Zarif’s name, but said the comments were a “big mistake that must not be made by an official of the Islamic Republic.” He added that the leaked comments “are a repetition of what Iran’s enemies say.”
Shortly after, Zarif issued his apology via Instagram, saying the comments were “stolen and published for misuse by enemies of the country and its people, and that it caused you, supreme leader, to feel regret.”
Zarif made the comments during a seven-hour interview, though they were not intended to be broadcast. They were leaked to Iran International, a London-based Persian-language news channel. Iran imposed travel bans on 15 people for alleged involvement in the leaking of the audio recording, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
The impact of the interview detailing the power struggles amongst Iranian leaders and the sway of the Revolutionary Guards was huge and many analysts questioned whether Zarif would be able to remain in office.
Zarif also made blunt comments about the late Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, saying the powerful military figure often overrode the foreign minister’s decisions. Soleimani was killed in a U.S. drone stroke in Baghdad in January 2020. Zarif sent an earlier Instagram apology to Soleimani’s family.