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Furious Zarif defends Iran's foreign policy to critic

In his first appearance since the Islamic Republic’s 10th parliament was inaugurated in May, Iran’s foreign minister lashed out at a political opponent for questioning the intentions of the country’s foreign policies.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures as he speaks during a news conference in Riga, Latvia, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins - RTX2FB1T

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared before the Iranian parliament Oct. 2 to address questions about Iran’s diplomatic approach in the aftermath of the nuclear deal. The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed with six world powers led to the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions in return for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.

Javad Karimi Ghodoosi, a member of parliament from the Principlist faction who has been an outspoken critic of Iran’s current government, posed questions that triggered an outburst by Zarif. Ghodoosi, a representative from the conservative city of Mashhad, raised three issues in the National Security Commission’s report:

  • What he saw as discrepancies in the Foreign Ministry’s quarterly JCPOA report.
  • Replacing Iran’s deputy for Arab and African affairs amid “the critical conditions in the region.”
  • Why the foreign minister "disagrees with the exhibition on the Holocaust myth," referring to a May cartoon contest in which some of the entries suggested that parts of the Holocaust are myths. The Iranian government has distanced itself from the contest, calling the organizers "nongovernmental."

Enraged by the insinuations, Zarif accused Ghodoosi of pursuing his own “short-term agenda at the expense of the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary image.”

In his answer to whether Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the former deputy for Arab and African Affairs, was replaced to soothe the “unease of certain foreign powers,” Zarif furiously stated, “This is not an insult to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but an insult to the [political] establishment to claim that our officials are replaced due to foreign concerns.”

Voicing his displeasure with Ghodoosi and stressing his ministry’s compliance with the policies of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Zarif replied in a harsh tone, “I am happy and proud of the fact that my brothers Qasem Soleimani, Hassan Nasrallah and Ramadan Abdullah [Shalah] contact me every day and thank me for the Islamic Republic's policies. … So please do not question our foreign policy.”

In its Oct. 3 report, "Zarif's 8-minute storm," Reformist newspaper Shargh Daily made reference to the parliamentary election on Feb. 26: “Only months after the opponents of the JCPOA were sidelined in the parliament, once more their voices were echoed in [the parliament].” According to Shargh Daily, “Pretending to pose questions, Ghodoosi came to prosecute the JCPOA agreement … [but] Zarif did not refrain from answering back [while] the parliament voted in favor [of him].”

In his response to the complaints around the Holocaust "myths," Zarif said, “I respect the freedom of speech. … It is my personal belief that addressing the issue of the Holocaust contributes to the victimization of the brutal Zionist regime and is not in the interest of the Palestinian people.”

Zarif later apologized for his ill-tempered tone after complaints from some of the hard-liners in parliament who oppose his and President Hassan Rouhani’s policies.

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