In an article on October 21, Haft-e Sobh, a Tehran-based daily, described Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Ghasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, a division ofthe Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, as the biggest capital owners of the country. The following is the translation of the article by the daily’s Kamal Bordbar:
These two individuals are the biggest capital owners in Iran. At an important juncture in the history of the region when all neighboring countries are grappling with war and unrest and Iran is subjected to all kinds of foreign threats, these two individuals who reflect the diplomatic potential and the military prowess of the nation are accumulating their capital by the day.
The representatives of these two important state institutions – the diplomacy machine and the military – did not have this much capital for years. The capital in question does not come in the form of dollars or oil. It is made of trust, unprecedented social trust which is building around these two representatives of our nation on the international stage at a time when the region is going through tough times.
One year ago when Mohammad Javad Zarif started running the nuclear marathon his optimistic assessments about the talks and the unraveling of sanctions drew pessimism from principlists and those who adhered to the faith more strictly. But the middle-class was expecting this mild-mannered, active man to pave the way for more acceptability of its ideas on the international stage.
On the other hand, principlists, radicals and more religious strata of society pessimistically sought traces of compromise in the way Zarif handled the talks. The telephone conversation between Presidents Rouhani and Obama and images of Zarif smiling next to [US Secretary of State] John Kerry deepened that pessimism.
With the Syrian war flaring up, the middle-class supporters of Zarif looked on, in a way that was anything but confident, as Iran helped keep Bashar al-Assad in power. Regional and Western media propaganda depicted the opponents of Assad as selfless freedom-fighters who were putting their lives on the line for the liberation of their country. They also alleged that for totalitarian reasons Iran was cooperating with Russia and China to help Assad hold on to power.
It came as the principlists and orthodox Muslims were eagerly following news about the resistance Lebanese Hezbollah put up and the role Iranian Quds Force advisers were playing in relieving key Syrian cities under siege. Back then the line of diplomacy which was led by a hardworking diplomat who smiled readily and the military line led by a mysterious general were diverse. It seemed that social gaps in Iranian society were nowhere near closing and new excavations had widened the gap between the two groups.
One year on, things have changed. The same regional developments which were supposed to weaken Iran have resulted in unbelievable convergence. ISIL’s invasion of Iraq and animosity between Iranian society and this stone-hearted group which was the most powerful of three aligned against Assad spelled an end to illusions.
The freedom-fighters of the past were now a bunch of brutal beasts that readily beheaded and maimed humans. They used different methods to show the grudge they held against Shiites and even Iranians. When ISIL captured Jalawla, Iraq and positioned itself 40 km from the Iranian border, the same pessimistic middle class began to appreciate the international arm of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps and the pacifying role of the white-haired general: Ghasem Soleimani.
That even shed light on the fact that Hezbollah was different from other militant groups in the region. That was how Soleimani secured the trust of new sections of society. That trust was not simply placed in him, but in the troops he commanded. And praise for his role began to pour onto social networking sites and peaked.
On the other hand, the skipper of Iran’s diplomacy ship proved that at critical moments in negotiations he would not submit to blackmail. The tireless diplomat emerged from one meeting only to go into another and put on the same smile, but his words were now tinged with traces of doubt and pessimism. He was now trying to counter the diplomatic attacks and saber-rattling of the other side. Those doubts which centered on the intentions of the Western side stemmed from his knowledge about what the other party had in mind.
Zarif and his men developed an increasingly coherent approach and cleared themselves of accusations they were too lenient. That was how the more religious stratum of society set aside the pessimistic lens through which they had always looked at this cheerful diplomat and concluded that the top diplomat and his men had no intention of selling Iranian national interests short.
At the same time the middle-class that supported Zarif realized that Iran had done nothing to push the nuclear talks into a deadlock. Other factors played a role in this gradual convergence too. The decline in the grandeur of Turkey, which depicted itself as an example of modern Islamism for years and a duplicate of Iran’s Islamic society, helped expedite the convergence in the country.
Turkey’s policy to help ISIL and its hypocritical indifference to the massacre of the Kurdish minority in Iraq and Syria at the hands of ISIL, coupled with its deadly crackdown on Kurds which left 33 people dead, revealed the unseen angle of Turkey’s Islamic liberal democracy in the court of public opinion in Iran.
This gradual, mild convergence has not remained hidden to others. There are still some media outlets overseas that put the slightest display of divergence in an ideological light and play up differences.
There are some quick-tempered radicals who pay no heed to the convergence that has formed in the country and to the critical stage the region is going through. They insist, with their trademark inconsiderateness, on ideological differences and describe any civil action as a conspiracy. Their reaction to the likely reasons behind what happened in Isfahan [a recent spate of acid attacks on women in this central city] was one such example. It was similar to their reaction last year to what was probably a mistake on the part of a famous elegist.
Developments overseas and the competence of our representatives on various fronts should be credited for convergence in our society and the unprecedented accumulation of social capital at home. Still, some foreign media and some at home are resorting to differences to beat the drum of division.
Back to the protagonists of our story: At a time when the region is witnessing bloodletting and war, these two men enjoy unprecedented popular support. On diplomatic and military fronts, these two individuals are representing the dreams of millions of Iranians to make the world a better place.