Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s criticism of the military in a leaked recording was “surprising and unfortunate,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Sunday.
“We have recently heard some things from some of the country’s officials that were surprising and unfortunate,” Khamenei said in a live televised speech.
Khamenei, who did not mention Zarif by name at any point during the speech, accused the top diplomat of echoing US claims.
“We should not say things that make it seem like we are repeating what America says,” he said.
A foreign ministry’s job is to execute policies set out by superior bodies and officials, Khamenei said, adding: “Nowhere in the world does the foreign ministry determine foreign policy.”
Zarif took to Instagram after Khamenei’s speech, apologizing for displeasing the supreme leader.
“I am very sorry that some of my personal views… have upset the noble supreme leader,” he wrote.
Khamenei’s statements “are, as always, the deciding factor for me and my colleagues,” Zarif said, adding that obeying Khamenei is an “undeniable necessity for foreign policy.”
In a leaked recording, aired last Sunday by London-based Iran International TV station, Zarif was heard complaining about having little influence over foreign policy compared with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its assassinated commander Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani headed the Quds Force, the overseas arm of the IRGC, and was considered the most powerful figure in Iran after the supreme leader.
He was killed in a US airstrike in Iraq in January 2020.
The recording caused an uproar among the political class in Iran, where criticism of the IRGC and Soleimani is a red line.
In an Instagram post earlier on Sunday, Zarif said he hoped Soleimani’s family would forgive him. “I hope that the great people of Iran and all the lovers of [Soleimani] and especially the great family of Soleimani, will forgive me,” he wrote.
In a separate Instagram post last week, Zarif had said his “honest” comments in the recording were mischaracterized as personal criticism.