Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said his resignation last month was not related to Bashar Assad’s trip to Tehran at the end of February.
Zarif abruptly announced he was resigning on February 25, immediately after Syrian strongman Bashar Assad visited Tehran and met with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. Zarif was not present in these meetings and it was later said that he had not been informed about the trip.
In an interview with Iraq Al Forat television network March 9, Zarif said that his resignation was unrelated to Assad’s trip and insisted that he has good relations with Syria and will be visiting the country soon.
But the reason for his resignation was not being informed about Assad’s trip and not invited to meeting during his visit according to multiple Iranian officials.
On March 5, the spokesman of Iran’s foreign ministry Bahram Qassemi (Ghassemi) was quoted as saying that the no one at the ministry was informed about Assad’s visit. “One of the reasons for the resignation of Dr. Zarif was this type of lack of coordination with the ministry of foreign affairs”, Qassemi reiterated.
In photos published immediately after Assad’s meetings in Tehran, Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s extra-territorial Qods force is seen present at the meeting with Rouhani while Zarif is absent.
Later, Esmail Qa’ani deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Qods force said that his organization brought Assad to Iran and was quoted by ISNA as saying that “those who were supposed to know [about the trip], knew about it”.
Rouhani did not accept Zarif’s resignation and asked him to stay on, two days after the incident. Zarif accepted after a mollifying remark by Soleimani.