November 26, 2013 | Policy Brief

Iranian FM Mohammad-Javad Zarif: Twitter vs Memoirs

November 26, 2013 | Policy Brief

Iranian FM Mohammad-Javad Zarif: Twitter vs Memoirs

Iranian foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator Mohammad-Javad Zarif returned to Tehran with great fanfare this weekend following the accord he reached with the US and other world powers in Geneva regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Bespectacled, soft spoken, and mild mannered, Zarif inspires confidence among world leaders and has emerged as the public face of the regime since his appointment to President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet. The West is particularly enamored with the way Zarif wields Twitter and Facebook, with updates that are closely followed by friends and foes alike.

However, the 140-character missives reveal little compared to Aqa-ye Safir (Mr. Ambassador), the foreign minister’s 368 pages long memoirs in Persian. The book has been largely ignored by Twitter- and Facebook-savvy Western diplomats.

This is a shame. Much can be learned about the man from his memoirs. Zarif is much more candid in his memoirs than in the snippets of information he communicates through his Twitter account.

Discussing Iran-US relations, Zarif says: “We have a fundamental problem with the West and especially with the America… Because we are claimants of a standpoint, which has a global dimension.”

Elaborating on the roots of the problems between the Islamic Republic and the United States, Zarif stresses: “We have… defined a global vocation, both in the Constitution and in the goals of the Islamic revolution… unlike Russia and China… the Islamic Republic has defined global goals for itself, and has a global vocation.”

Zarif goes as far as declaring: “I believe, that we do not exist without our revolutionary goals,” and concludes that he does not expect the United States and the Islamic Republic to have friendly relations. Ever.

Zarif does not take the trouble to explain what he means by the “global vocation” of the Islamic Republic, but his mention of the Constitution refers to Article 154 which states that the “[the Islamic Republic] supports the just struggle of the mustadafun [the oppressed] against the mustakbirun [the arrogant] in every corner of the globe.” This same article also describes the goal of “exporting the revolution,” suggesting that Zarif favors tension between Iran and Western powers.

Unlike his Twitter and Facebook updates, Zarif’s memoirs are a depressing read, particularly for those who want to believe that Zarif’s sharp wit and apparent sophistication reflect the Islamic Republic’s transformation from revolutionary revisionism to moderation. More immediately, the memoirs also serve as a warning for the implementation of the Islamic Republic’s accord with the P5+1 group, let alone a lasting solution to the three decades of problems between the Islamic Republic and the West.

Ali Alfoneh is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.


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