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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Is Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani Iran’s Ultimate Negotiator?

Filed under: Europe, Iran, Nuclear Warfare, Palestinians, U.S. Policy

Is Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani Iran’s Ultimate Negotiator?
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallström (Iranian press)

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who just completed his visit to three Nordic countries, said in Stockholm that he had conveyed a message to Saudi Arabia that the Saudis will have no choice but to hold a dialogue with General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Zarif and Wallstrom
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallström (Iranian press)

The Iranian Foreign Minister is in the middle of an international tour to “rescue” the Iranian nuclear deal from collapse and to ease tensions in the Persian Gulf, according to Al-Monitor.

Zarif, meeting with a group of Iranian exiles with Swedish citizenship on August 19, 2019, related: “In a message I transmitted to Saudi Arabia, I told the country’s leaders that if they see me as the big ‘plasterer,’ [editor’s note: an apologist, cover-up specialist] then start talking with General Soleimani.”1, 2

After the U.S. administration sanctioned Zarif last month, the State Department labeled Zarif, on Twitter and Facebook (in Farsi), “the Iranian leader’s big plasterer.” The meaning was that Zarif is good at covering up the truth and justifying Ali Khamenei’s policy of repression. The term plasterer is used widely by Iranians, who have always said that in his trips abroad Zarif plasters over the regime’s dirty policy and sweeps the truth under the rug.

In Sweden, Zarif added that if the Saudis think he does not hold a significant position and prefers dialogue with someone in the regime having greater seniority and authority, then they should start talking with General Soleimani. “But they [Saudis] make odd statements, saying Zarif has no authority and that they have issues with General Qasem Soleimani.”3

Zarif and Soleimani
Zarif says the world owes Qassem Soleimani for his “great role in fighting terrorism.” (Iranian press)4

Zarif added further that he had spoken about the matter with General Soleimani. He did not say, though, how the Saudis responded to his proposal, which, he claimed, had already reached them while Saud al-Faisal still served as foreign minister (until 2015).

This is not the first time a senior Iranian official has suggested that General Soleimani is the figure who should talk with the West and the other “enemies.”

Mahmoud Nabavian, a former member of the Majlis and member of the so-called hard-line Endurance Front (from which Ahmadinejad came to the presidency), said it is Soleimani who needs to talk with the United States instead of Zarif.

In Iranian eyes, Soleimani already humiliated Mike Pompeo in recent years. While he was CIA director, Pompeo sent Soleimani a letter in 2017 via Nouri al-Maliki, former prime minister of Iraq. As Pompeo later confirmed, Soleimani “refused to open the letter. It didn’t break my heart, to be honest with you.”5

According to Pompeo, the letter warned that the United States would hold Soleimani and Iran accountable for attacks against American forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Soleimani’s responded to the letter, according to Iranian sources: “I will not accept your letter, nor will I read it. I have nothing to do with these people.”6

Zarif and Trump

In the Swedish capital, Zarif also stated that in his assessment, President Trump will be reelected, and the Iranian regime cannot count on his leaving office.

Zarif seems to have been referring indirectly to an American article published last week that claimed the Iranian regime had taken a final decision not to soften its position until Trump’s ouster in the 2020 elections.

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