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What Iran's pick of FM tells us about its plans for the nuclear deal

Iranian diplomat Ali Bagheri Kani on May 24, 2013 in Tehran, Iran. [Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images]
Iranian diplomat Ali Bagheri Kani on May 24, 2013 in Tehran, Iran. [Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images]

After the Iranian presidential election on 18 June, President-elect Ebrahim Raisi is selecting the members of his incoming cabinet. The choice of the next foreign minister is crucial for Raisi's administration.

Iranian outlets have recently speculated over who may be appointed to the job, pointing to former Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, Deputy for International Affairs in the Judiciary Ali Bagheri Kani, the Special Aide of Iranian Parliament Speaker Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, former Special Envoy on the Caspian Sea Mahdi Safari, former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Deputy of the National Security High Council Ali Hoseini Tash.

Ali Bagheri Kani has the biggest chance of taking the helm of the Foreign Ministry. Many analysts say that if Bagheri is not the foreign minister, he will be a high-ranking official in Iran's foreign policy apparatus.

Kani is an ultra-conservative diplomat who served as a senior negotiator in talks between Iran and the West during the nuclear deal program in former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration from 2007 to 2013. He is currently the deputy of international affairs in the judiciary and has been secretary of the country's High Council for Human Rights since 2019.

The son of Mohammad-Bagher Bagheri, the former member of Iran's Assembly of Experts, Kani stems from an influential family. His uncle, Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, was an Shia cleric and politician who served as the interim prime minister of Iran from 2 September to 29 October 1981, while his brother is the son-in-law of the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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It has been reported that Kani has been placed in the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry to coordinate the transition process. A sharp critic of the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA), the appointment sent a clear message to the West that Iran's next administration must approve the final deal.

"The outcome of diplomacy with the US was a passage that in action denied Iran's rights and shut down many of our nuclear activities. In addition, the deal stabilised the sanctions structure and maintained the economic sanctions. In a word, the outcome of diplomacy with the US was unmitigated damage," Kani wrote in the introduction of U.S former US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's autobiography 'Not for the Faint of Heart'.

Raisi has also appointed Kani and Hoseini Tash as members of the Iran nuclear deal committee. This body must adjust the final agreement in Vienna according to the "Strategic Law on Lifting Sanctions" approved by the Iranian parliament on 2 December 2020.

"Our negotiators crossed Iranian nation's red lines in the JCPOA, and many red lines that were expressed by Ayatollah Khamenei have not been observed in the deal," Kani said in 2018.

Rouhani will leave office in under a month, with the Vienna talks ongoing, their overall outcome my change as Kani and other like-minded officials take office and refuse to striking a deal at any cost.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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