Who is Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who said John Kerry told him of Israeli operations?
Iran Foreign Ministry is looking into leak of audio of Mohammad Javad Zarif's comments on John Kerry; FOX News' Rich Edson reports on 'Special Report'
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has sparked outrage at U.S. climate envoy John Kerry over a claim that Kerry gave him information about Israeli military strikes. But he has a history of incendiary remarks, even as he sometimes also assumes the role of a moderate negotiator.
Zarif's time on the international stage go back to his days with Iran's U.N. mission in 1982, following his education at San Francisco State (he later earned a Master's degree and Ph.D. from University of Denver). Since then, he went on to be the Islamic nation's top U.N. representative from 2002 to 2007 before ultimately getting the foreign minister job.
During that time, Zarif was reportedly instrumental in drafting a roadmap for a "grand bargain" with the U.S. meant to improve ties between the two countries. It never became a reality, but Zarif would later engage in negotiations with the U.S. and other nations as foreign minister, when Kerry – as secretary of state in the Obama administration – helped craft the Iranian nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Despite his diplomatic history, however, Zarif has not been afraid to issue threatening statements. In 2020, following the announcement of the historic Abraham Accords peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Zarif called the agreement a painful betrayal of Arab and other countries in the region.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a June 2019 file photo. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
In February of that year, Zarif told NBC News that Iran and the U.S. had been "very close to a war" following the U.S. strike that killed Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani.
At the end of 2020, however, Zarif accused then-President Trump of trying to "fabricate a pretext for war."
Days later, he accused "Israeli agent-provocateurs" of "plotting attacks against Americans" and warning Trump of a "trap."
Earlier this month, Zarif again made accusations against Israel, claiming they had committed "war crimes" and "nuclear terrorism" following a cyberattack on Iran's Natanz nuclear facility.
In 2019, then-national security adviser John Bolton announced that the U.S. considered Zarif to be an "illegitimate spokesman for Iran" as the Trump administration issued sanctions against the foreign minister.
Kerry's alleged leak regarding 200 Israeli military strikes in Syria to Iran was revealed in audio of Zarif obtained by The New York Times. Kerry has called the allegations "unequivocally false."
An analysis of the Kerry-Zarif conversation by the Jerusalem Post's Lahav Harkov notes that the Israeli strikes in Syria had become public knowledge at roughly the same time as one of their meetings. Harkov notes, however, that Zarif did not say when Kerry supposedly gave him the information, and that it could have happened well before it had been publicly disclosed.
Regardless, Harkov says, Zarif is an "unreliable narrator."
That characterization was based on Zarif's claims in the audio that he has little control over his country's foreign policy and is not kept informed, even though he claims to represent the country's position in recent nuclear talks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.