Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has questioned Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's "Eastern" policy and ruled it out as "meaningless" in unprecedented and provocative comments he made during a speech in Tehran on Friday December 14.
While explaining his ideas on foreign policy, Zarif made the comments at the congress of reformist party Nedaye Iranian (Voice of Iranians) established by Khamenei's close relative and former Iranian ambassador to Paris, Sadeq Kharrazi.
Zarif's comment sharply contradicted Khamenei's October 17 statement during a meeting with a group of "academic elites and prominent scholars."
"We should look East, not West. Pinning our hope on the West or Europe would belittle us as we would beg them for favor and they would do nothing," Khamenei told the group which included Iranian academics returning from various Western countries.
Instead, Khamenei said that Iran should look East, "where countries are taking quick steps on their roads to growth," The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted him as saying.
This was the second unusual comment by Zarif during recent weeks. His first troublesome comments were about widespread money laundering and corruption among Iran's top figures. The comments angered hardliners, and a group of MPs at the Iranian parliament tabled a motion to impeach him for the remarks they took as "insult."
There has been so far no reaction from Khamenei supporters to Zarif’s latest statements, but considering their uproar over his money laundering remarks, some sort of rancorous reaction cannot be ruled out.
Criticizing those who believe in looking towards East or West, Zarif said that the age of superpowers has ended, but Iranian officials' don't want to believe this.
Zarif further explained that "At the time being, looking to East is as meaningless as looking to West."
He said that a wide range of Iranian politicians "from those who want to interact with the world to those who are concerned about opening up to the West, think of the West as the center of the universe. This is a mistake. Our world is a Post-Western world."
The comment also contradicts another Khamenei suggestion he made to President Hassan Rouhani that his government should abandon hope in Europe's initiatives to save the nuclear deal with the or help Iran's failing economy to improve. Khamenei had said: "We should look East, not West."
This was after European states promised to save the nuclear deal with Iran, but failed to deliver, after the United States withdrew from the agreement in May.
During the past 30 years, under the leadership of Ali Khamenei, Iran has been practically relying on the East, increasing its interaction with Russia, and just as an example, partnering with Moscow in the war in Syria at the expense of ruining its own economy. Tehran also increased its cooperation with Russia at the United nations organization and other international forums, although Russia has supported all the UN resolutions about sanctions on Iran.