On the heels of the re-election of moderate President Hassan Rouhani, Iranian hard-liners have once again launched a wave of attacks against the government. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is widely popular among Iranians for having reached the nuclear deal in 2015, has in recent days been particularly facing a series of accusations by hard-liners.
Parliament member Mahmoud Nabavian, a member of the hard-line Endurance Front and also a part of the campaign of conservative presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, claimed recently that Zarif had reached a deal with the United States to hand over Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani in exchange for the lifting of remaining banking sanctions.
Once the audio file of Nabavian's allegations went viral on social media, Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi denied the Endurance Front member’s claims and threatened to file a legal complaint against him.
On May 31, Zarif himself reacted to Nabavian’s claims and described his statements as “shameful.” Zarif said that in light of his “affection for and cooperation with the general, I will definitely pursue this issue legally, unless [he who made the allegations] formally apologizes or repents.”
On the same day, Nabavian held a press conference in which he reiterated his accusations.
“It has been said that I have claimed that they [Rouhani administration officials] have committed themselves to hand over Qasem Soleimani to the West. I have no secret document [in my possession about this], and all of these documents are declassified,” Nabavian said, adding, “After the [signing of the] JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], the Americans said that if you want us to honor our commitments, you should implement the FATF [plan of action]. The outcome of this commitment is handing over people like Gen. Soleimani and many others.”
FATF, or the Financial Action Task Force, is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1989 on the initiative of the Group of Seven to develop policies to combat money laundering. Following the signing of the nuclear deal, Iran decided to agree to measures proposed by FATF to come off its blacklist — a decision that has been met with harsh criticism from hard-liners.
Meanwhile, Zarif also met with Soleimani in an apparent attempt to further rebut Nabavian’s statements. A photo was released May 31 of the Iranian foreign minister sitting next to the commander of the Quds Force.
Nabavian’s allegations have also led to a backlash among some conservatives.
Elyas Naderan, a prominent hard-liner and a senior member of Raisi’s campaign, wrote a letter to Nabavian on June 1, saying, “Your [statements] upset many [figures], including Dr. Zarif, who has been described by the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] as a child of the [Islamic] Revolution.”
Naderan added that Nabavian’s explanation for his allegations wasn’t enough and that he should thus correct his statements. Naderan also advised Nabavian not to provide the Rouhani administration with an opportunity to take political advantage of such actions.
In another development, judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said the destiny of the Green Movement’s leaders, who have been under house arrest since 2011, is in the hands of the Supreme National Security Council.
He said, “The duty of the judiciary is to enforce the decision of the Supreme National Security Council, and the judiciary still follows the [orders] of the Supreme National Security Council.” Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two Reformist candidates in the 2009 presidential elections, were placed under house arrest in the wake of a series of protests claiming that the vote was rigged.
Ejei also said the investigations into former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) have not been finalized. Ahmadinejad is alleged, among other things, to have spent government funds to bring along his family on one of his many trips to the UN General Assembly in New York.