January 19, 2021
Iran’s foreign minister has that his remit includes defending the Islamic Republic’s entire system of governance, including the activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and its intelligence arms.
In a televised interview broadcast on Monday, January 18, Zarif acknowledged the IRGC was behind 2019 TV series called Gando which had painted both him and other members of the Rouhani administration in a bad light.
Despite this, he said, “I have a duty to defend this domestic institution abroad.” He also controversially claimed that “the Iranian people” were still fully behind the principles of the Islamic Revolution, citing the large crowds in attendance at the funeral of IRGC Quds Force commander Ghasem Soleimani as evidence.
“If you were against this way of life and resistance,” he demanded, “why would you attend the funeral of Ghasem Soleimani, the person who is the greatest embodiment of this approach, and show your support? Somebody, solve this problem for me.”
The remarks were met with widespread condemnation from Iranians on social media, who tweeted their dissent under hashtags such as “#I_did_not_choose”. Users decried poor economic conditions, human rights abuses and a lack of social and political freedoms in Iran, all of which, they said, they did not support at all.
The Islamic Republic still claims that millions attended the funeral of Ghasem Soleimani in January 2020 and holds it aloft as a sign of public consent to its political approach.
Independent observers are less certain. For one thing, taking into account the maximum number of people who could have been physically present in the streets at a given time, the number of people who actually attended is estimated to be a few hundred thousand.
“Our people’s choice is to be proud in the world,” Zarif went on in his interview. “Their choice is to follow what Martyr Soleimani was a symbol of: resistance. This is how our people honor the one who is a symbol of resistance. This is a fact.
“So when I say we have chosen, you can predict the rest of my sentence: we chose not to be like Saudi Arabia. They go by the rules of America, but we do not. There may be a group that sits at home criticizing and saying that our policy in Syria is wrong, but when it comes to making a decision, they stand by the resistance and pride of the country.”