By Hamid Enayat
The United States decided on Wednesday July 31 to impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif, thus intensifying a “maximum pressure” campaign on the Iranian regime, which accuses it of destabilizing the Middle East. “Zarif is the (real) face of the regime, which is spreading propaganda and information campaigns abroad in favor of Tehran’s nuclear program, its ballistic missiles and its terrorist networks,” said a senior official on condition of anonymity.
These sanctions against Mr. Zarif are not surprising: In late June, with the announcement of “tough” sanctions on Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Donald Trump had warned that the Iranian Foreign Minister would “soon” face the same fate.
An image of a moderate
A US official said: The moderate image of Mr. Zarif, which is driven by his fluency in the English language, his humor and his education in the United States, does not illustrate this fact (that is, moderation). “He has long pretended to be a reasonable and credible representative of Iran,” he said.
In 2018 alone, under the tenure of Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, five Iranian diplomats have been expelled from three European countries, including Gholamhossein Mohammadnia, the regime’s ambassador to Albania, who was expelled in December 2018 for his role in the failed terrorist plot of truck bombing of the residence of the Iranian opposition in the country. Another senior diplomat is awaiting trial in a Belgian prison.
During Zarf’s tenure as the regime’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York (2002-2007), Gholamhossein Mohammadnia was head of the Intelligence Ministry’s station there and worked under Zarf’s responsibility. The two have done many joint actions. Following the MEK’s resettlement to Albania in 2016, Zarif appointed Mohammadnia as ambassador, specifically to use his anti-MEK expertise to direct and plan assassination plots against the group. Mohammadnia was expelled from Albania in December 2018 for arranging a truck bombing at a major MEK facility near Tirana.
As a key member of the Supreme National Security Council, Mohammad Javad Zarif was involved in planning terrorist operations to target the gathering of hundred thousand strong Iranian opposition in the outskirts of Paris in July 2018. Assadollah Assadi, who is currently in jail in Belgium on charges of supplying explosives, was stationed at the regime’s embassy in Austria for years. He recently was working as third secretary.
The Vienna-based diplomat, Assadi, the main culprit of the Paris bombing plan, had previously served as third secretary at the regime’s embassy (2005-2008) in Baghdad. He was a highly trained explosives expert and worked directly with the Quds Force in the Improvised Explosive Detonation (IED) operations.
In an interview with Fox News on April 28, 2019, Zarif claimed, “The IRGC has never killed the Americans.” However, the Pentagon said that in Operation Iraqi Freedom at least 603 US personnel were killed by militias backed by the IRGC. State Department spokesman Robert Paladino said at a news conference that the figure “accounts for 17 percent of American casualties in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.” He says this death toll must be added to many more “casualties in the hands of the IRGC affiliates.”
In most of his professional career, Zarif has been with the most senior intelligence officials involved in terrorist operations at home and abroad. Zarif, for example, was the personal close friend of Saeed Emami, a former deputy intelligence minister who was involved in the killing of dozens in Iran and abroad.
Zarif also has close relations with Reza Amiri Moghaddam, head of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security’s (MOIS) Foreign Displacement Office. Amiri Moghaddam directed the 2018 terrorist plot to be executed in Villepin near Paris.
Zarif also has close ties with the IRGC and the Qods Force, especially with its commander Qassem Suleiman. On April 10, 2019, two days after the US designated the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), Zarif appeared at the IRGC Command Center and reaffirmed his firm support for this terrorist organization.
The regime’s own officials have acknowledged the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s close relationship with the Qods Force and their shared role in shaping the regime’s foreign policy, reflecting the complex organizational and operational relationships between the two entities.
Sadegh Kharrazi, who served as ambassador to the United Nations from 1989 to 1995 and later as ambassador to France from 2002 to 2006, said in an interview on December 31, 2018: “Cooperation and coordination in the past 5-6 years between the country’s two main institutions, the Qods Force as a rapid reaction force on the one hand, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as the executor of Iran’s foreign policy, on the other, has been unprecedented in Iranian foreign policy history. With two wings, one from the foreign ministry’s foreign policy chief and the other from the Qods Force, as Iran’s national rapid reaction force, Iran was able to get a very deterrent capability.”
Prior to this, however, the Supreme Leader (vali-e-faqih) was using the so-called moderate figures such as Zarif and Rouhani in his foreign showcase to seduce Westerners or to provide alibi for appeasement policy-makers.
In the late 2017 demonstrations in 160 Iranian cities that shook Iran’s theocracy, the slogans were initially based on economic demands, but quickly became political slogans. The young people, especially in their slogans, were chanting “Hardliner, reformer, the game is now over!”
*Hamid Enayat is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst based in Europe.