Iran Goes on a Diplomatic Twitter Campaign

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After the Iranian President Hassan Rohni and his Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted Rosh Hashanah wishes to Jews around the world, the Iranian Twitter diplomatic campaign continues. Zarif used Twitter to wash his hands from the Holocaust denial of the previous Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

After Zarif tweeted his Rosh Hashanah wishes, Christine Pelosi, an author, activist and the daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who wrote: “The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran’s Holocaust denial, sir.”

Zarif was quick to reply tweeting "Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone. Happy New Year." He was presumably referring to former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called the Holocaust a "fairy tale."

After the tweet, Zarif was interviewed on Tasnimnews.com, an Iranian news site. In the interview he confirmed sending the Rosh Hashanah greeting on Twitter and commented on what he thought about the Holocaust. Zarif posted quotes from his interview (in Persian) on his Facebook page, which received over 11 thousand 'likes.'

"We never were against Jews. We oppose Zionists who are a minority," the foreign minister was quoted as saying. "We have condemned killing of Jews by Nazis as we condemn (the) killing and crackdown on Palestinians by Zionists," he said.

Zarif's comments on the holocaust are interesting and important and are no doubt a change in the Iranian rhetoric concerning the holocaust. That being said, his attempt to put the blame of Iranian Holocaust denial solely on Ahmadinejad is misleading.

Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei has made similar statements on the Holocaust countless times. Khamenei said the Holocaust was a "myth" and that the fact of its existence questionable. In a March 2012 interview Khamenei even condemned European nations for considering Holocaust denial a criminal offence.

In addition, Zarif himself was hard-pressed to admit that six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Dani Dayan, YESHA Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria's chief international envoy, posted a video on Twitter, in which Zarif, then Iran's ambassador to the UN, is seen debating with a Jewish New York student. In the video, Zarif doesn't deny the Holocaust but he does provide evasive answers to questions on the subject.

On Thursday, Rohani announced that he was transferring the responsibility for Iran's nuclear program and the negotiations with the six world powers on the subject from the country's national security council to its foreign ministry. This is an important change as the National Security Council answers to Khamenei, while the foreign minister answers to Rohani.

Rohani's decision is a apparently an attempt on the part of the Iranian president to change the Iranian policy concerning the negotiations with the world powers as to the country's nuclear program. Zarif, the foreign minister, served as Iran's ambassador to the UN and is considered moderate and much easier to deal with than the former head of the National Security Council Said Jalili.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, August 2013.Credit: AP
Zarif's Twitter messages (Screenshot).

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