Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has rejected the resignation of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, according to the country’s semi-official Fars news agency.
“The presidential office said the resignation had not been accepted,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said, Fars reported Tuesday.
The nation’s top diplomat announced his intention to step down from his post, which he has held since 2013, on Instagram on Monday evening. Rouhani is required to accept the resignation in order for the move to go into effect, according to Iranian law.
Qasemi said any speculation about the reasons for Zarif’s resignation beyond what appeared on his Instagram page is incorrect, reported Fars.
“I sincerely apologize for the incapacity to continue serving and all the shortcomings during the service,” Zarif wrote on Instagram, adding, “Be happy and upbeat.”
In an interview with the semi-official ISNA news agency, Zarif said he hoped his sudden resignation would act as a “wake-up call for restoring the Foreign Ministry to its real and legal position in foreign affairs.”
Zarif was the key architect in the landmark 2015 deal aimed at reining in Iran’s nuclear program, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from last year. He has been Iran’s foreign minister since 2013 and is well known in western circles. He was educated in the United States and speaks English fluently.
Earlier on Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Iran on his first publicized official visit to the country since 2010, and Zarif did not appear in official photographs of the meetings. Assad met separately with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and with Rouhani.
In both meetings, the leader of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, appeared alongside Assad. Soleimani is widely credited with being the mastermind of Iran’s campaign to prop up Syria’s embattled president during the country’s ongoing war.
Zarif’s noticeable absence at the high-profile meeting appeared to be the latest in a string of tensions between the moderate government of Rouhani and hardliners, which include the Revolutionary Guards, backed by Khamenei.
“Clearly there is dissatisfaction on Zarif’s part with the way things are going in terms of the authority he and his ministry are experiencing,” said Al Monitor’s Iran Pulse Editor Mohammad Ali Shabani. “It’s not something that happened overnight. It’s been going on since day one.”
On Tuesday, Rouhani appeared to attempt to appease Zarif. In a speech, the president said Assad conveyed his thanks to the foreign minister, and attributed Iran’s “great success” in facing off with US sanctions partially to the foreign ministry.
“In the region we pulled off a great success and this great thing – this came on the back of efforts by all our forces. Part of that was on the shoulder of the foreign ministry, part of that was on the shoulder of the economy,” said Rouhani.
Zarif left Iran in 1977, received his undergraduate degree from San Francisco State University in 1981, his master’s in international relations from the University of Denver in 1984 and his doctorate from the University of Denver in 1988. Both of his children were born in the United States.
“He plays a very unique role because there are not many like him in the system,” said Shabani. “With his background, his mastery of media, fluency in English. These may sound small things but they can have a big impact on how you can conduct your work as the chief diplomat.”