In a leaked audiotape that was part of an oral history project documenting the work of the current Iranian administration, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif admitted that his diplomatic efforts are often hamstrung by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which really calls the shots in Iran, The New York Times reports.
"I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy," Zarif reportedly said in the recording, later adding that he has often been left in the dark about the government's actions.
The leak may have some far-reaching consequences at a critical juncture for Tehran, which is renegotiating a nuclear pact with Washington and other governments and is gearing up for presidential elections in June. Zarif is associated with Iran's reformist political movement, which generally favors at least some form of engagement and deal-making with countries like the U.S. Zarif's supporters are now worried that his comments could reinforce "voter apathy and the idea that elected officials are not really in charge," the Times says, making it difficult for their preferred candidates to hold off hardliners in the upcoming contest.
Plus, the tape could directly affect the nuclear talks themselves. "This ties the hands of the negotiators," Sina Azodi, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council who focuses on Iran, told the Times. "It represents Zarif as someone who is not trustworthy domestically, and overall paints a picture that Iran's foreign policy is dictated by theater policies of the military and Zarif is a nobody." Read more at The New York Times.