Analysts are expressing increasingly pointed concerns that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif may lack either the ability or the willingness to help secure a comprehensive deal between Iran and the West that would put Tehran’s nuclear program verifiably beyond use for weaponization, with his recently published memoirs and multiple recent interviews all being marked by intransigent rhetoric and maximalist negotiating positions. Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Marc Gerecht, both senior fellows at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reviewed Zarif’s Mr. Ambassador: A Conversation with Mohammad-Javad Zarif and flatly assessed that “the affable foreign minister turns out to be every bit as religiously ideological as the radicalized student activist he was in the late 1970s.” Zarif emerges as a dogged ideologue who remains committed to exporting the Islamic Revolution beyond Iran’s borders, even as he lacks the domestic power base that would allow him to deliver concessions being promised to the West. The combination, note Alfoneh and Gerecht, “serves as a bad omen for the Islamic Republic’s interim nuclear agreement in Geneva.” Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, evaluating their analysis, pointed specifically to passages in which Zarif described Iran as having a “fundamental problem” with America, noting that the friction is grounded in Iran’s “raison d’etre”: “trying to change the international order.”
Alfoneh and Gerecht continue, “While Zarif considers national welfare one of the goals of the Islamic Republic, he stresses that ‘we have also defined a global vocation, both in the Constitution and in the ultimate objectives of the Islamic revolution.’ He adds: ‘I believe that we do not exist without our revolutionary goals.’ ” In other words, U.S. negotiators facing Zarif might be facing someone who is more rigidly ideological than they are prepared to acknowledge.
Meanwhile tape reemerged over the weekend, posted by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), of Zarif telling George Stephanopoulos that critics who castigate Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for the latter’s Holocaust denial are taking him out of context. That claim is false, and may deepen concerns that Zarif is unwilling to acknowledge – let alone address – the broad ideological and diplomatic gaps between Iran and the West.
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