Tehran, Iran – Shortly before talks resume in Vienna on restoring the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, its Foreign Ministry has made some potentially critical changes.
Hardline diplomat Ali Bagheri Kani has been appointed the new deputy for political affairs, replacing veteran diplomat Abbas Araghchi, who led six rounds of nuclear talks in Vienna until late July, when talks were halted to allow the new president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, will form his administration. .
Araghchi, a career diplomat and key member of the team that negotiated the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) during President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure, is now an advisor to Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, which may mean that he has not been completely outcast.
If the nuclear file remains with the Foreign Ministry, unlike the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Bagheri Kani, for years a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal, could become the new chief nuclear negotiator.
But even if he does not lead the negotiations, he is expected to play an important role in pushing for a tougher stance on lifting the unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States after it abandoned the agreement in 2018.
Bagheri Kani’s appointment was reportedly prompted by Saeed Jalili, another opponent of the JCPOA and an ultra-conservative senior member of the SNSC who was running for president in the June elections.
Jalili himself spearheaded the nuclear negotiations with the West, from 2007 to 2013, but they led nowhere and the UN Security Council continued to sanction Iran under then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the time, Jalili was also the secretary of the SNSC and Bagheri Kani was his deputy.
The 54-year-old also led Jalili’s presidential campaign when he unsuccessfully ran against Rouhani in 2013.
Before being appointed political deputy of the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, Bagheri Kani was the head of the human rights council of the judiciary, a position for which he was appointed by then-Chief Justice Raisi.
Prior to that, he held various positions related to regional affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which he joined almost 30 years ago.
Bagheri Kani comes from an influential family in the more than 40-year history of the Islamic Republic.
His 95-year-old father is a former member of the Assembly of Clerical Experts, tasked with appointing a successor to the 82-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His uncle led the assembly from 2010 until his death in 2014.
On Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry had another shocking appointment when Mehdi Safari was installed as the new deputy for economic diplomacy. Safari is a former ambassador to China and Russia, another sign that Iran is turning more and more to the east.
The road ahead
The appointments come as Iran and the US, China, Russia and European powers are expected to return to the Austrian capital at a critical stage for the JCPOA.
The spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that the Vienna talks would take place “in the near future.”
Another looming crisis over the resumption of talks was averted on Sunday when Iran and the world nuclear watchdog An agreement was reached beaten in Tehran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran agreed that the agency would have access to its monitoring equipment to replace and repair its memory cards. The recordings will still be kept in Tehran pending the lifting of US sanctions.
The agreement avoided the possibility of possible censorship against Iran at the meeting of the IAEA board of governors. US and European powers had sought a similar resolution earlier this year, prompting a temporary agreement between Iran and the IAEA to avoid a crisis.
Members of Iran’s hardline parliament, who made temporary deals necessary when they passed a law in December restrict IAEA inspection access, are unhappy with Sunday’s deal, fearing it will undermine their law. They have called Iran’s new nuclear chief, Mohammad Eslami, to brief them in Parliament.
On Tuesday, reports emerged that Natanz security personnel had subjected IAEA female inspectors to unnecessarily intrusive searches in June this year. The agency called the incident “unacceptable” and said it raised the issue with Iran and that there had been no further incidents.
The Natanz nuclear facility in Iran has been the target of two sabotage attacks last year, for which Iran has blamed Israel.
Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s IAEA envoy, said in a tweet Tuesday that “security measures at Iran’s nuclear facilities are reasonably tightened.”
Security measures at Iran’s nuclear facilities have been reasonably tightened. IAEA inspectors have gradually developed the new rules and regulations.
– Gharibabadi (@Gharibabadi) September 14, 2021