All successful politicians can justifiably be accused of hypocrisy in its many forms – some lie brazenly, some create spins, some refrain from telling the whole truth…In order to survive politically, these seasoned politicians place the agendas of their governments before their personal integrity because honest politicians have very short life-spans.
Without a doubt, Iran’s FM Javad Zarif is a successful politician: he not only understands the rules of the game, he is smart and ambitious enough to create his own rules on the way. Zarif, along with President Hassan Rouhani, is responsible for the nuclear deal with Iran and he enjoys a “superstar” status in Iran which earned him the honor of a statue of his bust in Iran.
Whether Zarif will continue to enjoy the adulation of the Iranian people and of the regime is questionable but, at least for now, he is at the top of his career and one of the key factors of his success is his straight-faced hypocrisy: this has made him a great negotiator with the P5+1, a great interviewee and, for now, a prized asset for Rouhani. On the other hand, this outstanding quality has also made him a politician whose statements should be taken with large doses of skepticism and scrutiny.
Following are a few of his statements which exemplify Zarif’s hypocrisy. Whether you agree with the statements and the agendas they represent or not, one thing is certain: they should not be accepted at face-value.
Zarif on Terrorism
Zarif whole-heartedly supports Rouhani’s rebranding of Iran as a champion against terrorism, as opposed to a state which supports terrorist militias. Rouhani’s brilliant re-positioning of Iran on the issue of terrorism was based on, and facilitated by, the brutal terroristic nature of ISIS and the reported support that ISIS received from the US in its infancy. If ISIS is “the bad guy”, then fighting ISIS is “good”, hence Iran’s fighting ISIS earns it the title of being “the good guy” regardless of whether it supported and continues to support terrorist militias or not… a bit like a convention of butchers rallying for vegans.
Tehran has supported Assad since 2011 and is fighting ISIS since 2014. Over the past two years, it continuously took the credit for fighting ISIS and continuously denigrated the efforts of the dozen or so countries, especially the US, in fighting ISIS. When Moscow joined the fray, at the insistence of Tehran, Zarif glowingly praised the Russian involvement adding that all countries should follow Russia’s lead. What he “forgets” to mention is that Tehran, as the self-proclaimed leader in the fight against ISIS, has failed dismally to destroy ISIS and doesn’t deserve the role of judging who is and who isn’t doing a good job in the war against ISIS.
During the Munich Security Conference hosted in (surprise, surprise) Tehran, Zarif warned about nations backing terrorism in order to attain “temporary capital”. Although he is 100% right to say this, he conveniently “forgets” that Tehran has done exactly this by supporting terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic jihad etc…in order to achieve what he is warning against.
Furthermore, he urged Europe to be more “flexible” in regards with the Syrian refugee crisis emanating from Syria. Again, he is 100% correct in stating this but he “forgets” to mention that most of these refugees are actually fleeing Assad and Hezbollah/Iranian forces and that had Tehran not supported Assad since the inception of the war, it would not have lasted so long and taken such a heavy toll on the Syrian people.
Tehran might be fighting ISIS terrorist, not too successfully it seems, but it also is using terrorists in order to achieve its own goals.
Zarif on Meddling
Tehran is a notorious meddler in the affairs of its regional neighbors. It does so in order to “export the revolution” and build itself a network of allies which may help it lead Khamenei’s vision of a Global Islamic Awakening with Tehran (and Shiism) at its center. Zarif himself is in tune with these efforts: Tehran, he wrote, has a “viewpoint that has the potential to be projected globally and change the international order” and that “without revolutionary goals, we don’t exist”.
Tehran’s influence is Lebanon, Syria and Iraq is massive while its influence in countries such as Yemen and Bahrain is still kept in check by the ruling governments there and their partner, Saudi Arabia.
And yet, Zarif repeatedly dismisses accusations of meddling and portrays Tehran’s meddling as nothing more than a “helping hand” to friends. According to him, it is up to the Syrian people to decide the future of Syria and that their fate should be “determined at the polls and not by weapons“. Once again, he “forgets” to mention, that Tehran blindingly supporting Assad with weapons and fighters and if he is so keen on a democratic decision, why hasn’t Tehran convinced Assad to hold a free election since 2011? No, Tehran wants Assad in power, with or without elections since Assad represents the Shiite-like Alawite minority which is more in tune with Tehran than the majority Sunni rebels.
Similarly, Zarif stated that Lebanese people should decide their own fate politically, conveniently “forgetting” that Lebanon is indirectly under Tehran’s rule through the political and military power of its proxy, Hezbollah. Without the interference of Tehran in Lebanese politics, Hezbollah would probably be ousted and Tehran would lose another ally on the road to a global Islamic Revolution.
Tehran’s “helping hand” to its neighbors holds the guns needed to support whoever is more in tune with Tehran in killing and suppressing whoever isn’t.
Zarif on Human Rights
Zarif’s take on human rights is just as hypocritical as his statements on terrorism and meddling. As with other leaders in Iran, Zarif seems to believe that Iran is a true and open democracy focused on the welfare of its citizens…a government by the people and for the people…a government which “follows its people, not the other way around“. Of course, he “forgot” to mentions that Iran is only semi-democratic in that its president, Rouhani, is chosen by the people through open elections but the regime, with Khamenei at its head, is chosen by the regime itself and it is Khamenei who has supreme control in Tehran, not Rouhani. Even the free elections for the presidency are tainted by the fact that nominees for the presidential elections have to be accepted by Khamenei himself.
In an interview with Charlie Rose last year, Zarif’s hypocrisy shone out when he stated “Iran doesn’t jail people for their opinion“, ignoring the imprisonment, torture and oppression of thousands of Iranians who are paying for the crime of criticizing the regime (a “sin” punishable by death). Zarif, in the same interview also stated that Tehran “has a plan to improve human rights” but unfortunately, he hasn’t shared the details of such a plan and neither has Rouhani.
Lately he spoke about trying to release WaPo’s reporter in Tehran, Jason Rezaean, from jail and from his death sentence for being a spy – although the charges against Rezaean are “serious”, Zarif said, he wants to “resolve it (his imprisonment) from a humanitarian perspective“. Too little, too late: Rezaean should not have been imprisoned with restricted contact with his lawyers and family in the first place for simply doing his duty as a reporter.
No, Mr. Zarif…speaking about Iran and human rights in the same sentence cannot be accepted as anything less than hypocritical.