Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who served as the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, was killed by a US drone strike outside Iraq’s Baghdad International Airport in early January 2020. The strike also claimed the lives of several top officials from Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani alleged during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that Israel was behind the January assassination of Soleimani, explaining that the US drone strike was “provoked by the Zionists.”
“The martyrdom of General Soleimani was directed by the Zionists, even though [former US President Donald] Trump was the commander and killer,” Rouhani said, before referring to the former commander-in-chief “a mercenary of the Zionist regime.”
The Iranian president went on to note that “all [of Trump’s] actions were provoked by the Zionists,” acknowledging that “of course, the previous US presidents were friends with the Zionists, but were not mercenaries.”
Rouhani did not provide any evidence to support the allegations made during the midweek meeting with fellow cabinet officials.
However, the meeting did also see Rouhani discuss the bombshell remarks that were made by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in a recently leaked tape, which allegedly saw the official state that his diplomatic efforts within the government were overshadowed by the demands of the IRGC.
In the tapes, which were not meant to be released to the public, Zarif is alleged to have stated that Soleimani often did more damage than good in terms of maintaining diplomacy with global leaders, specifically stating that the deceased official had allegedly attempted to thwart the signing of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
At the time, Zarif played a key role in the signing of the nuclear deal, which saw the US lift strict sanctions against Iran in exchange for caps on the Middle Eastern nation’s nuclear capabilities.
Zarif is also said to have praised Soleimani’s military efforts in the recording, highlighting the slain commander’s productive cooperation ahead of the US invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. He also lamented that Soleimani’s death was a heavy loss for Iran.
Rouhani remarked during the meeting that the tapes were seemingly purposefully leaked since ongoing Vienna talks meant to ease tensions between the US and Iran are “at the height of their success.” He noted that the interview was released “so that it creates discord” within Iran.
“We can only lift sanctions through unity,” the president added.
Zarif has been under fire since the audiotapes first emerged on Sunday, prompting the onset of heated debate within the Islamic Republic ahead of looming presidential elections. The foreign minister has addressed the matter and indicated that he deeply regrets the political fallouts that resulted from his recorded commentary.