TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran’s foreign minister apologized on Sunday for the recorded comments that were leaked to the public last week, creating a firestorm in Iran less than two months before the presidential elections.
Mohammad Javad Zarif’s tapes included candid comments about the powerful Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, killed by a US drone in 2020. The attack at the time brought the US and Iran to the brink of war. Soleimani’s funeral processions in Iran drew millions to the streets.
In the tapes, Zarif criticizes Soleimani’s separate relations with Russia and his refusal to stop using the national carrier Iran Air for Syrian operations over Zarif’s objections. Iran Air has been sanctioned by the United States
Zarif said in an Instagram post on Sunday that he hopes Soleimani’s family will forgive him. “I hope that the great Iranian people and all the lovers of the General (Soleimani) and in particular the great family of Soleimani, will forgive me,” he said.
Zarif’s leaked comments have been highly controversial in Iran, where officials keep their words to a bitter political environment that includes the powerful Revolutionary Guard, ultimately overseen by the country’s supreme leader.
Besides criticism of Soleimani, a senior Guard commander, Zarif’s leaked remarks included cutting references to the limits of his power in the theocracy.
Zarif can be heard saying at various times of the seven hour tape that it was not meant to be broadcast.
“If I had known that a line of it would be made public, I certainly wouldn’t have mentioned it like before,” he said in his Instagram post.
Zarif has said he will not run for president in the next election. Some had suggested him as a potential candidate to challenge hardliners in the vote.