Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Announces Resignation

'I am apologizing to you for all the shortcomings,' Zarif writes on Instagram ■ Netanyahu welcomes move: 'Good riddance' ■ Iran's President Rohani is yet to accept the resignation

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif waves after a plenary session at the United Nations building in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2015.
\ REUTERS

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stepped down on Monday, announcing his resignation on Instagram. 

"I am apologizing to you for all the shortcomings ... in the past years during my time as foreign minister ... I thank the Iranian nation and officials," Zarif wrote on his Instagram page jzarif_ir. 

On Monday, Iran's state-run IRNA news agency confirmed the resignation, citing Abbas Mousavi, a government spokesman. There was no immediate reason offered for what prompted Zarif's resignation. President Rohani is yet to make a decision on whether to accept it.

>> Zarif says Israeli strikes in Syria could lead to war

On Sunday, Zarif criticized Iranian hard-liners in a speech in Tehran, saying: "We cannot hide behind imperialism's plot and blame them for our own incapability."

"Independence does not mean isolation from the world," he said.

In an interview published Tuesday by the daily Jomhuori Eslami, Zarif seemingly elaborated on his resignation. "A deadly poison for foreign policy is that it becomes the subject of factionalism and parties' quarrel," Zarif reportedly said. "There should be trust toward servants of foreign policy on the national level. Without trust in them, everything will go with the wind." Zarif said he hoped his sudden resignation would reinforce the position of his fellow diplomats, hinting at a dispute with the security apparatus and hard-liners."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a post on Twitter, dismissed Zarif and Rohani as "frontmen for a corrupt religious mafia." 

"Our policy is unchanged - the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people", Pompeo said. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded Tuesday morning on Twitter to the news of Zarif's resignation, writing in Hebrew: "Zarif is gone, good riddance. As long as I am here, Iran won't have nuclear weapons."

Zarif played an important role in striking the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. But he came under attack by anti-Western hardliners in Iran after the United States pulled out of the agreement last May and reimposed sanctions that were lifted under the deal. 

Earlier on Monday, Syrian President Bashar Assad made an unannounced trip to Iran, where he met with the supreme leader and other top officials to discuss the planned U.S. troop withdrawal and Turkey's efforts to set up a buffer zone in northern Syria. Zarif was however not present for a meeting with Assad.

Assad met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rohani on the rare trip abroad — his first to Iran since the civil war broke out in 2011.

Earlier Monday, Zarif met with members of the activist group Code Pink in Tehran, smiling as he posed for a photograph with them. However, he was not seen in images later in the day showing Assad meeting with Khamenei and Rohani.

Zarif's resignation called to mind a similar move in 1988 by then-Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi, said to have been triggered by outside pressure. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini at the time opposed the resignation and Mousavi continued his job.

It was unclear if Assad's visit to Tehran had an impact on Zarif's decision.

On Tuesday, authorities shuttered the pro-reform Ghanoon daily which had in its early edition of the day called Assad an "uninvited guest" on the front page. The paper said on its Telegram channel that it was closed until further notice.

Later on Tuesday, and without mentioning the resignation, Rohani praised Zarif as well as Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh and Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati as soldiers on the battlefield against U.S. pressure.

"Today, the front line against the U.S. are the foreign and oil ministries as well as the Central Bank," Rohani said in a televised address. "Zarif, Hemmati and Zanganeh have stood in the front line."

Prominent pro-reform lawmaker Ali Motahari said Zarif's resignation came in response to the "interventions by unaccountable bodies in foreign affairs." He said Rohani was unlikely to accept the resignation "since there is no alternative" for Zarif.