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Opinion: Iran’s Foreign Minister Is Playing a Precarious Political Game



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Newly leaked audio recordings of Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, are stirring controversy in Tehran. The recordings include audio of Zarif critiquing his domestic rivals, whom he accused of colluding to undermine his diplomatic efforts.

Some see the audio — released by London-based news channel Iran International — as designed to endanger Zarif and weaken his negotiators in their efforts to revive the nuclear deal. To me, it looks as though it could be intended to bolster Zarif’s sagging image by distancing himself from the regime for a possible presidential run or, at the very least, insulate him from accountability at home and abroad.

With a presidential election less than two months away — one that Iran’s establishment worries will inspire a historically low turnout — the results of Zarif’s tenure will inevitably be on center stage, whether or not Zarif is a candidate. Zarif, more than any other Iranian political figure, has come to symbolize engagement with the rest of the world, and the tape implies that those efforts faced obstacles in public and behind the scenes.

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