Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has expressed regret over the leaking of his candid statements about late General Qasem Soleimani and asked compatriots, including the general's family, to forgive him for what he had said.
"I hope that the great people of Iran and all, who loved General [Soleimani], and especially the great family of Soleimani, will forgive me", Zarif said in a statement published on his official Instagram account.
Zarif further said that his words were not meant for publication and that had he known they would be released, he would have worded his statements during the leaked interview differently.
Contents of Controversial Tapes
The foreign minister landed in hot water after a tape containing his interview for the "oral history" project was leaked to foreign media outlets. The project was devised to record the history of the eight years of the Hassan Rouhani government for studies in the future. However, these tapes, including the one recorded with Zarif, were never meant to be public.
In his interview, Zarif makes a number of controversial claims, including allegations about general Soleimani trying to subvert the signing of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and purportedly using Iran Air to ship weapons to Syria, thus putting the national airline under American sanctions. The foreign minister argued that Soleimani's actions often harmed Iran more than helped it.
At the same time, Zarif praised cooperation with Soleimani ahead of the US invasion in Afghanistan and Iraq, and insisted that the general's killing by the US in January 2020 was a heavy loss for the nation. The general is considered a martyr in his homeland, who fought the enemies of the Islamic Republic, due to his involvement in fighting Daesh*, as well as for taking an active role in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Tehran believes that the tapes were leaked with the aim of damaging the Iranian government. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered an investigation to find whoever is responsible for leaking the recording.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS or IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia.