Iran's Khamenei says remarks by foreign minister in audio leak 'big mistake'


TEHERAN (AFP) – Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Sunday (May 2) slammed as a “big mistake” remarks by Iran’s foreign minister, a week after audio emerged of the latter bemoaning the military’s influence on diplomacy.

Top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, a long-standing key member of moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet, made the remarks in a three-hour “confidential” conversation first published by media outlets outside Iran a week ago.

The recording provoked anger from conservatives. But moderates have questioned who stood to gain from the leak, as presidential elections loom and amid pivotal talks seeking to revive a hobbled 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

“The country’s policies are made of different economic, military, social, scientific and cultural plans, including foreign relations and diplomacy,” Khamenei said in televised remarks.

Saying “that one part denies the other or contradicts… is a big mistake that must not be perpetrated by officials of the Islamic republic,” the supreme leader added.

Khamenei did not explicitly cite the leaked audio or Zarif’s name, but the comments, in the last few minutes of an hour-long speech, were clearly targeted at the foreign minister.

The supreme leader emphasised that “nowhere in the world is foreign policy devised by the foreign ministry”.

The diplomatic apparatus is only “the executor” of decisions made at higher levels, he said, noting that decisions are made by the Supreme National Security Council.

‘Final word’

Zarif said in the recording that “the military field rules” in Iran and that he had “sacrified diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy.” Khamenei said on Sunday “some of these remarks are a repeat of hostile remarks of our enemies, repeating America’s rhetoric.”

The US and Iran have been at loggerheads for decades, but tensions ratcheted significantly during the administration of president Donald Trump.

Trump three years ago unilaterally abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, imposing biting sanctions which have prompted Tehran to progressively abandon its commitments under the deal.

He also presided over a US air strike last