Iran's Zarif says he resigned ‘to protect the integrity’ of the Foreign Ministry

Iran's Zarif says he resigned ‘to protect the integrity’ of the Foreign Ministry

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who abruptly submitted his resignation late Monday, said he did so “to defend the integrity” of the country's Foreign Ministry, Iran's official government newspaper reported. His shock announcement roiled Iranian markets Tuesday.

As Washington Post writes in the article  Iran's Rouhani refuses to accept his top diplomat's resignation, unverified reports suggested that Zarif was angered by his exclusion from a high-level meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, attended by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani. Assad was making his first public visit to Iran since the Syrian conflict began in 2011

“I sincerely apologize for my lack of ability to continue my service and for all of the shortcomings,” Zarif, a U.S.-educated diplomat, said in an Instagram post Monday.

On Tuesday, he said he “felt no remorse” and did not “need anyone to console me,” state media reported.

The pro-reform news site Entekhab reported Monday night that Zarif said he had “no credibility in the world as a foreign minister” after images of the meetings were published.

Zarif, who negotiated the nuclear pact with world powers, has come under pressure from hard-liners in Iran in the months since the United States withdrew from the deal and reimposed far-reaching sanctions on Iran. His resignation could upend Iran’s foreign policy at a critical time for the Islamic republic.

More than 150 parliamentarians signed a letter calling on Rouhani to keep Zarif as chief diplomat. And in public remarks Tuesday at the Central Bank of Iran, Rouhani “thanked” Zarif — who negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal — for his role in “confronting” the United States.

Rouhani, a relative moderate and pragmatist, has not yet officially accepted Zarif’s resignation. Rouhani's influential chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, posted an undated photo of the president and Zarif together on an airplane.

Rouhani is “fully satisfied” with Zarif, Vaezi said before the foreign minister's statement Tuesday. “According to Dr. Rouhani, the Islamic Republic of Iran has only one foreign policy and a secretary of state,” he wrote.

Michael Singh, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said Zarif’s resignation is not surprising because the policies he championed have fallen out of favor since the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“The supreme leader has been very critical of the JCPOA and outreach to the West after the U.S. withdrawal,” Singh said. “And Zarif is the poster boy for the JCPOA and engagement with the West.”

Singh said Zarif’s departure may be rooted in domestic issues, rather than foreign policy, because there are no significant prospects for negotiations on either Iran’s nuclear program or on the issues of concern to Europeans and Americans. He noted that Rouhani has been involved in a power struggle with hard-line elements in the government and that Zarif may be the casualty. “Absent Rouhani stepping down — which would be very significant, to end his presidency early — Zarif is bearing the brunt of this and is ultimately the one who’s lost his job over this,” Singh said.