Iran’s Deep State Dynamics
Anyone sincere observer of Iranian domestic affairs is well aware of the struggle between the reformist/”moderate” and principalist/”conservative” factions of the country’s permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”), with only the ignorant or propagandists denying that these tensions exist. These long-running tensions just exploded into the open after an oral history interview that Foreign Minister Zarif – one of the faces of the reformist/”moderate” faction – gave to a journalist earlier this year under the assumption that it wouldn’t be shared for years were mysteriously leaked to the global media ahead of this summer’s elections. They exposed the intense friction between his reformist-run Foreign Ministry and the principalist-backed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), basically confirming what many had already speculated for some time – that the former is largely influenced by the latter for the most part.
Scandalous Remarks About Russia
In particular, however, these recordings contained a few bombshells. Regarding Russia, Zarif claimed that it was actually President Putin who convinced former Major General Soleimani to dispatch Iranian troops to Syria and not the inverse like many had hitherto though with respect to the prior reports that it was actually that famous soldier who convinced the Russian leader to commence his country’s anti-terrorist operation there. This contradicts plenty of prior reports that Iranian forces were active on the ground at Damascus’ request long before September 2015. In addition, Zarif said that Russia was trying to sabotage the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA) in order to retain some degree of influence over Iran, which is inconsistent with Moscow’s very visible support of this deal the entire time and its strict condemnation of former US President Trump’s decision to withdraw from it a few years back.
Strong Suspicious Of A Secret American Hand
It’s clear that these leaks were intended to influence the upcoming Iranian elections, but it’s unknown at this moment exactly who leaked them and why. Speculation abounds, and it might very well be the case that Zarif’s own team was responsible in order to highlight Iran’s deep state divisions and thus give a populist boost to the reformist/”moderate” faction ahead of the vote by rallying the growing number of those who espouse anti-establishment (i.e. anti-principalist/-”conservative”) views. What’s so suspicious is that the Foreign Minister had just been involved in top-level talks with the US over reviving the JCPOA, and it’s well known that America prefers the reformists/”moderates” over their opponents. There’s no evidence at the moment to prove this theory, but it wouldn’t be surprising if this leak was coordinated by Zarif and his American interlocutors in a desperate attempt to retain the reformists’/”moderates’” electoral appeal despite the deteriorating economy.
Blaming The Principalists/”Conservatives”
It should be remembered that the Iranian economy is only doing so poorly because that factions’ flagship deal, the JCPOA, failed to achieve any tangible dividends following Trump’s withdrawal from it. The reformists/”moderates” never thought that he’d win back in 2016 and thus fulfill one of his main campaign promises, but lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened. Instead of acknowledging the principalists’/conservatives’ point that the JCPOA was never in their country’s best interests to begin with, Zarif and his faction sought to blame the powerful IRGC that’s most popularly associated with them for its failure. This explains why Zarif accused the security services of attempting to sabotage the deal, which indirectly hints that perhaps Trump’s withdrawal from it wasn’t as groundless as he claimed (or might have been pressured by the IRGC to claim) at the time. In other words, he’s blaming the IRGC for Iran’s economic woes.
Even in the event that there wasn’t any literal conspiracy between Zarif and his country’s official American enemies to leak those recordings in order to manipulate voters into supporting his reformist/”moderate” faction ahead of this summer’s vote, that was nevertheless the strategic impact regardless of the intent. Zarif very clearly resents the IRGC and the principalist/”conservative” faction that it represents, which is why he didn’t watch his words like a diplomat of his calibre should normally always do due to how triggered the very thought of them makes him. His strange references to Russia seem intended to court nationalist support for the reformists/”moderates” on the basis that it’s them, not the principlalists/”reformists” like many thought, who’re safeguarding national interests from foreign powers such as Russia. The way that Zarif made it sound, Russia trapped Iran in the Syrian quagmire and scuttled the JCPOA that could have saved the Iranian economy.
There’s no doubt that Zarif’s leaked recordings amount to a blatant example of meddling, but it’s still unclear exactly who was responsible for this and whether or not the Foreign Minister conspired with Iran’s American enemies who sympathize with his reformist/”moderate” faction as part of a pre-election power play against their principalist/”conservative” rivals. Nevertheless, the recordings confirm just how deeply Zarif resents the IRGC and its factional backers, as well as how suspicious he is of Russia. About the latter, his scandalous remarks very strongly imply that Moscow is responsible for Iran’s foreign military woes in Syria and its rapid economic deterioration due to his claim that President Putin convinced former Major General Soleimani to dispatch troops to the Arab Republic and then secretly tried to sabotage the JCPOA. Zarif’s playing a very dangerous political game with the highest stakes possible, which suggests just how desperate his faction has become.