Could Zarif’s resignation be the first of many for the Iranian regime?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif delivers his statement, during the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 26 February 2019
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Could Zarif’s resignation be the first of many for the Iranian regime?

  • The announcement by Zarif prompted reports that large numbers of diplomats are considering resigning too
  • Experts say it is a sign of the downward spiral facing the Islamic Republic

DUBAI/JEDDAH: After Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gave his resignation on Instagram Monday night, experts say it is a sign of the downward spiral facing the Islamic Republic.
The announcement by Zarif, Iran’s lead negotiator of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, prompted reports that large numbers of diplomats are considering resigning too in a show of support.
“He couldn’t be resigning from one action. It’s a compilation of events that has led to this decision,” said Riad Kahwaji, founder and CEO of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai.
“When you see a head of state being received by the Supreme Leader (Ali Khamenei), accompanied by the Quds Force instead of the foreign minister, this by itself is an indication of how things are headed in Iran and who has the upper hand.”
According to Iran’s Entekhab news agency, Zarif’s resignation appears to be linked to a surprise visit by Syrian President Bashar Assad to Tehran on Monday.
The top diplomat was not present at any of the meetings Assad had with Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, according to the semi-official news agency ISNA.
Entekhab said it tried to reach Zarif and received the following message: “After the photos of today’s meetings, Javad Zarif no longer has any credibility in the world as the foreign minister!”
Kahwaji said the power of diplomacy has been eroded in Iran at the expense of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a branch of the country’s armed forces.
“The IRGC didn’t like the nuclear agreement because it imposed limitations on a program it spearheaded,” he added.
Zarif resigned on social media “to make sure he presented his own view, instead of submitting a resignation letter and waiting for the official media to give its own justification. This way, no one can claim he meant something else. He used a platform with his own voice stating the reasons for his resignation,” Kahwaji said.
There was no immediate indication that Rouhani had accepted the resignation, and a petition urging him not to do so was signed by a majority of MPs, senior lawmakers said. Kahwaji said the decision lies ultimately with Khamenei, not Rouhani.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Zarif was “one of the frontmen for a corrupt religious mafia. We note his resignation. We’ll see if it sticks.”
Pompeo added: “Our policy is unchanged — the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people.”
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami, head of the Riyadh-based International Institute for Iranian Studies, said Zarif had submitted his resignation more than once before, but these were rejected.
“The visit of … Assad to Iran and the man’s resignation as foreign minister aren’t related, despite the fact that both took place in one day,” Al-Sulami said, adding that Khamenei may persuade Zarif to withdraw his resignation.
“Another assumption is that the resignation can mirror the political end of Zarif. Either the relieved Deputy Foreign Minister (Hossein) Amir-Abdollahian or Abbas Araghchi (the current political deputy) may be chosen for the post. I personally expect the former to replace Zarif.”
Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, professor in global thought and comparative philosophies at the department of politics and international studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, said Iranian ministers and other government officials are prominent on social media, and have repeatedly used them to communicate their decisions.
“It’s deemed effective and prudent in terms of political neutrality,” he said. “Zarif has been a doyen of Iranian diplomacy ever since he was Iran’s ambassador to the UN.”
As for potential replacements, Adib-Moghaddam said Iranian foreign policy has never really been dependent on one person.
“I know from my own research that the Foreign Ministry is staffed by highly educated and capable diplomats,” he added.
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, an international affairs scholar in Riyadh, said some claim that Assad’s visit to Iran did not go through the Foreign Ministry, which was considered a marginalization of Zarif and his ministry.
“Others believe that the man has failed in his tasks as foreign minister,” Al-Shehri added. “Rouhani and his men are no more than PR employees. The IRGC is the governing force in Iran, and Zarif was forced to submit his resignation.”
Al-Shehri said: “The resignation, which hasn’t been accepted or rejected by Rouhani, may also be a media distraction (from) the British government’s decision to designate Hezbollah’s political wing a terrorist organization.”
The official IRNA news agency quoted Zarif as saying: “I hope my resignation will act as a spur for the Foreign Ministry to regain its proper statutory role in the conduct of foreign affairs.”
Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Zarif was “never going to moderate the regime” in Iran.
“His job was to con Westerners into thinking the regime was moderating,” Dubowitz tweeted. “With his departure, the civilized world has one less excuse for seeing what has been in front of its nose all along.”
As the lead negotiator in the nuclear deal, Zarif’s standing within Iran’s political establishment took a hit when the US withdrew from it and re-imposed crippling unilateral sanctions last year.
Ultraconservative MPs tried to impeach Zarif but backed down in December as the initiative lost steam.


Iraq must not be dragged into another regional war: president

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Iraq’s President Barham Salih in London, Britain June 25, 2019. (The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office/Reuters)
Updated 26 June 2019
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Iraq must not be dragged into another regional war: president

  • ‘We cannot afford our country to be dragged into conflict’
  • Saleh said Baghdad’s priority was ‘stability’

LONDON: Iraqi President Barham Salih said Wednesday his country must not be dragged into another conflict in the Middle East, as tensions rise over its neighbor Iran.
“We have had four decades of challenge and turmoil. We do not want to be embroiled in another war,” he said at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs think-tank in London.
“We cannot afford our country to be dragged into conflict.”
With tensions high between Iran and the United States, Salih insisted his country would not become “a staging post for belligerents.”
“We are asking everybody to cool it down... enough is enough,” he said.
“We do not want to be a victim of a conflict in Middle East. We have not finished the last one,” the Iraqi president added, referring to the US-led war on terror and battle against Daesh.
“It is in our national interests to have good relationship with Iran,” he said, whilst adding: “The US is a very important partner for Iraq.”
Salih, who took office in October, said Baghdad’s priority was “stability.”
“We need to transform Iraq from a zone of regional and proxy conflict into a zone of trade, infrastructure development, and jobs and a future for young people,” the 58-year-old said.
Salih visited British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday for talks on security cooperation and nation-building.
May said Britain “stood ready to provide further support” to the Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, her Downing Street office said.