March 18, 2015 | Quote

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Key to Nuclear Deal, an Enigma to Many

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and chief nuclear negotiator, presents a puzzle. To some, his flawless English and soft manner offer the picture of a pragmatist eager to bring his country back into the world community, trying to drag along a reluctant leadership at home. To others, his Western credentials are a mask and he is indistinguishable from hardliners he needs to keep satisfied.

“Zarif is the most effective diplomat Iran has had since the 1979 revolution,” said Karim Sadjapour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.“That said, Zarif offers an unrealistic portrait of the Iranian government because if the men who controlled power in Tehran all thought like Zarif, there would have been a U.S.-Iran rapprochement decades ago.”

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former C.I.A. officer, sees it differently.

“He’s an Islamic Revolutionary,” he said. “Revolutionaries come in a number of models and Zarif is the expatriate, mild-mannered model” who rejects the values of the West.

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