Opinion: Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif′s resignation a boost for hard-liners | Opinion | DW | 26.02.2019
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Opinion: Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif's resignation a boost for hard-liners

The announcement that Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is stepping down is proof that Washington's tough policies towards Tehran are showing results. Iran's hard-liners are winning, says DW's Matthias von Hein.

The resignation of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is a signal, irrespective of whether or not President Hassan Rouhani has reportedly rejected it.

The diplomat, whose legacy is linked to the Iran nuclear deal, who studied and lived in the United States for decades and wanted to open his country, is about to call it quits. In 2015, people danced in the streets when the international agreement was reached over Iran's nuclear energy program, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Conservative leaders within Iran didn't like the deal, and they didn't like the spontaneous burst of joy and hope that came with it.

Positive effects of the nuclear deal

The deal soon touched the Iranian people's lives. There was a more lively international economic and cultural exchange and tourism began to boom — even if the benefits of the agreement didn't fully live up to the expectations. In 2017, under the impression of these developments, moderate politician Hassan Rouhani was re-elected as president in a resounding victory. Again, the people danced in the streets, at a time when new US President Donald Trump was visiting Iranian regional rival Saudi Arabia on his very first state visit. On that trip, Trump participated in a ceremonial sword dance, live for the global media to see. The symbolism of the war dance was underlined by major weapons sales to the Saudi regime.

Matthias von Hein

DW's Matthias von Hein

The unilateral US exit from the Iran nuclear deal, which is binding under international law, has proven right the politicians in Tehran who argued against trusting the US and the West.

In the Iranian political system of competing power centers, Washington's strategy of putting maximum of pressure on the country ultimately weakens more moderate factions. It is a boon for conservative hard-liners.

Read more: Saudi Arabia and the nuclear temptation

That became clear to all on Monday as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. Iranian chief diplomat Zarif was not present, and rumor has it he was not even informed about the meeting in the first place, unlike the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was present.

Loss of a key advocate

With Zarif's resignation, the nuclear deal loses its most important advocate in Tehran.

Read more: Jason Rezaian — free speech in Iran still an 'uphill battle'

International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear inspectors have now checked 13 times, and found that despite the US withdrawal, Iran has been keeping its side of the deal. Even US intelligence agencies recently confirmed that as a fact. That could change — if Zarif's resignation is ultimately accepted, the world could become a more dangerous place.

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