Iranian Foreign Ministry furious over NYT leak

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh commented on the remarks from the head of the ministry, Mohammad Javad Zarif, about negotiations with Russia on the nuclear deal, as well as on the role of the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Qasem Soleimani, in them.

In particular, Khatibzadeh pointed out the need to consider the Foreign Minister's speech in full, without braking it into separate statements. 

“This conversation was recorded only on government hard drives and was not intended to be published. It is unclear who and for what purposes selectively published it in the media,” he said.

At the same time, the Foreign Ministry spokesman emphasized that Zarif spoke respectfully of Soleimani, his past and close relations, his wisdom, courage and prudence."

The statements that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during one of the conversations, which were not intended for public release, were published by The New York Times. In particular, Zarif condemned Soleimani's decision allowing Russian military aircraft to fly over Iran to bomb Syria, as well as the transfer of military hardware and personnel to Syria by state airline Iran Air without the knowledge of the government.

In addition, Zarif expressed an opinion that the general had allegedly worked with Moscow to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program deal. According to him, Russia does not want the success of the agreement and made every effort to create obstacles for it.

The conversation was leaked at a difficult moment for Iran. Tehran is currently conducting indirect Europe-mediated negotiations with the United States in Vienna. The goal of the talks is to revisit the  nuclear deal - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The agreement was concluded in the summer of 2015 between Tehran and six intermediary countries. Later, Iran was caught in gross violations of the agreements. In early May 2018, the United States announced its unilateral withdrawal from the deal and the resumption of anti-Iranian sanctions. Iran announced the abandonment of the JCPOA agreements in January 2020.