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Iran's parliament approves new foreign minister

August 25, 2021

Hossein Amirabdollahian will replace Javad Zarif as Iran's foreign minister. Zarif negotiated the Iran nuclear deal whereas Amirabdollahian is on an EU sanctions list for alleged human rights abuses.

Amir Abdollahian | iranischer Außenminister
Image: Nikita Shvetsov/AA/picture alliance

Iran's parliament approved the appointment of Hossein Amirabdollahian as foreign minister in newly elected President Ebrahimi Raisi's Cabinet Wednesday.

Amirabdollahian replaces outgoing Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who has years of experience in the US and dealing with American officials.

Zarif wrote on Twitter: "Wishing him, the ministry and its officials, and the new administration, all success in international relations" 

Zarif had negotiated the Iran nuclear deal, worked as Iran's ambassador to the UN and was educated in the US. By contrast, Amirabdollahian is on the EU sanctions list for human rights abuses allegedly carried out while he was a judge.

Amirabdollahian was also deputy foreign minister for Arab and African Affairs under former fundamentalist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was best known in the West for Holocaust denial and disputed re-election in 2009.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shakes hands with then US State Secretary John Kerry in Geneva in 2015
Outgoing Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif negotiated the Iran nuclear deal with the US and six other countriesImage: Getty Images/AFP/R. Wilking

Iran's parliament approved 18 of 19 candidates put forward by President Raisi for ministerial posts on Wednesday. Only his pick for education minister was rejected due to a lack of credentials. Several of his Cabinet choices are on EU or US sanctions lists.

Amirabdollahian, friend of many Western adversaries

The incoming foreign minister is believed to have close connection to Iran's Revolutionary Guard as well as Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies in the region. He is a former ambassador to Bahrain and served as the deputy chief of mission at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad between 1997 and 2001.

He will take the helm at the Foreign Ministry as Iran faces myriad crises at home and abroad.

In 2018, Washington unilaterally quit the 2015 the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), informally known as the Iran nuclear deal, which it had signed with six other countries. The US then reimposed sanctions that squeezed Tehran.

Iran has been renegotiating since April to revive the nuclear deal and get international sanctions lifted. The last round of talks occurred on June 20th, before Raisi was sworn in as president on August 5.

While Raisi backed the talks, experts predict a tougher line when they resume.

He is now tasked with lessening economic hardship at a time when COVID-19 and sanctions are ravaging the country and the balance of power in the region is shifting in yet unforeseen directions.

Sanctions on Iran 'scaring investors away'

ar/nm (AP, dpa, Reuters)