Who is Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s new Foreign Minister?

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“[Hossein] Amir-Abdollahian is another Qassem Suleimani in the field of diplomacy. “

So recently did an Iranian legislature described Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is the candidate for the post of Foreign Minister. Like Suleimani, the powerful commander of the Iranian Quds Force, who was murdered in a US drone attack in January 2020, Amir-Abdollahian is known for his support for the Iran-backed “Axis of Resistance” in the Middle East – political and military series Groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen and others that Iran supports across the region.

The country’s conservatively led parliament approved the appointment of Amir-Abdollahian with 270 to 10 votes. Members had urged the State Department to support the late Suleimani’s aims and missions in reviewing Amir-Abdollahian’s credentials, and the high vote in parliament shows they trust him in this regard.

“[Hossein] Amir-Abdollahian is another Qassem Suleimani in the field of diplomacy. “

So recently did an Iranian legislature described Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is the candidate for the post of Foreign Minister. Like Suleimani, the powerful commander of the Iranian Quds Force, who was murdered in a US drone attack in January 2020, Amir-Abdollahian is known for his support for the Iran-backed “Axis of Resistance” in the Middle East – political and military series Groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen and others that Iran supports across the region.

The country’s conservatively led parliament approved the appointment of Amir-Abdollahian with 270 to 10 votes. Members had urged the State Department to support the late Suleimani’s aims and missions in reviewing Amir-Abdollahian’s credentials, and the high vote in parliament shows they trust him in this regard.

In fact, the 57-year-old diplomat, who previously served as Speaker of Parliament for International Affairs and Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs, among other things, has once called himself as Soleimanis “soldier”. He called Every time he traveled to a country as a diplomatic and negotiating envoy, he first consulted with Suleimani for the necessary guidance.

The proximity in the views of Amir-Abdollahian and Suleimani suggests that the former will attach great importance to Iranian military policy in the Middle East during his tenure. On his first official bilateral visit as Iranian foreign minister, he traveled to Syria and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reaffirm Iran’s support for his regime. Since 2011, with the start of the Syrian civil war, Iran has provided Assad with military and civil support.

Amir-Abdollahian was born in Damghan, Iran, 200 miles north of Tehran, but his family moved to the capital after his father’s death at the age of six. They settled in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city, at 17 Shahrivar Street south of Mehrabad International Airport. He describes themselves as “from the south” – a term normally reserved for families who live in the poor southern outskirts of Tehran and have relatively low levels of welfare and livelihood.

Describing the level of poverty and deprivation in the area he lived in, he said there was no hospital or even a small clinic he grew up in and they later started with the help of a group of local people and his friends run a charity clinic there.

Amir-Abdollahian volunteered in the Iran-Iraq war and from 1980 to 1988 says this experience led him to the Iraq division of the Foreign Office in 1990 and 1991. In 1991 he received his bachelor’s degree in international relations from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ School of International Relations and his master’s and doctorate in international relations from the University of Tehran. In 1997 he was appointed State Secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Iraq.

Amir-Abdollahian said he worked closely with Suleimani from the beginning of his career. He was present for that direct negotiations 2007 with the Americans in Iraq. The Iranian team was under the supervision of Suleimani during these talks and negotiated with officials from the CIA and the US Department of Defense.

It is not surprising that his work often brought him into close contact with Suleimani. The Suleimani Quds Force, the foreign branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was traditional responsible of Iranian politics and diplomacy in the Middle East, from Palestine to Iraq to Yemen, and played a vital role in providing military and political support to militant movements across the region.

In 2011, the then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appointed Amir-Abdollahian, due to Amir-Abdollahian’s good relations with the Quds Force and with Suleimani, as Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs, where most of the Quds Force’s activities took place. When Mohammad Javad Zarif became foreign minister in 2013, Amir-Abdollahian was the only deputy foreign minister from the Ahmadinejad era to remain in his office, which he held for a further three years.

In 2016, however, he was suddenly dismissed. Some reports suggest it was inconsistent with Zarif’s approach, and the two disagreed on regional issues. Asked about his fall, Amir-Abdollahian called After the end of the nuclear talks, Zarif pursued a new policy in the region. But tough lawmaker Javad Karimi Qudusi quoted Zarif’s Secretary of State, Morteza Sarmadi, told Amir-Abdollahian: “We want to send a message to the West that our policies in the Middle East have changed and the way to send that message is to remove you from your post. “

The overthrow of Amir-Abdollahian was sharply criticized by conservatives and conservative-friendly media. Some recommended He had been fired to appease the Arab countries and then US Secretary of State John Kerry, who saw Amir-Abdollahian as one of the main obstacles to the peace and diplomacy efforts of then Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with the United States and the major Arab countries of the region, such as Saudi Arabia.

When conservatives in Parliament asked Zarif for an explanation, disputed This allegation read: “It is an insult to the government to say that we are changing our officials because of concerns from foreigners. These claims are unfounded. Moving people from one department to another in the State Department is an obvious fact. “

But Zarif’s decision to fire Amir-Abdollahian may also have had to do with his own frustration with Suleimani – and thus with Amir-Abdollahian as his deputy.

In a recently leaked audio of an interview that was due to be released long after he left office, Zarif accused Suleimani of continually undermining his diplomatic efforts and complained that although he was foreign minister, he played a limited role in defining Iran’s regional policy. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, he said, the battlefield or “field” – which means the Quds Force’s military and influence operations in the Middle East – always came first before the “diplomatic field”.

In this context, Zarif’s dismissal of Amir-Abdollahian could be seen as an attempt to weaken the influence of the Quds force in the Foreign Ministry and regain some authority over foreign policy in the Middle East.

And judging by Amir-Abdollahian’s reaction to Zarif’s remarks, he might have been right.

Amir-Abdollahian argued that the actions of Suleimani and the Quds force in the Middle East brought security to Iran and the region. He called Diplomacy has always relied on the “field,” and if Americans have agreed to negotiate with Iran on the nuclear program and other issues on various occasions over the past decade, it is because of Iran’s capabilities on the ground and its influence in the country Middle East.

As Foreign Minister, Amir-Abdollahian will be able to integrate the strategy of the Quds force more seamlessly into the country’s foreign policy approach. He himself told For MPs, he would continue Suleimani’s path in foreign policy.

Amir-Abdollahian has made it clear what he wants to achieve as foreign minister. “We in the Middle East are trying to consolidate the achievements of the Axis of Resistance field,” he said called during his parliamentary review for the job. “We are proud to support our allies and the ‘Axis of Resistance’.”

This approach seems to be in line with Raisi’s own foreign policy goals. At Raisi’s inauguration ceremony, representatives of Iranian-backed deputies – such as Hezbollah, Hamas and al-Hashd al-Shaabi – sat at the front; behind it sat the EU foreign policy representative. The then international parliamentary director Amir-Abdollahian was responsible for the formalities of the international guests and their seating arrangements at the ceremony.

Amir-Abdollahian also supports the “Look to the East” policy stressed von Raisi, which aims to develop Iran’s relations with China and Russia, and called it is the main axis of the new government’s foreign policy. He described the signing of the 25-year Iran-China cooperation agreement as “historic” and said he was involved in drafting the document.

Amir-Abdollahian does not have much experience with the nuclear deal because he was not present at the talks. But he believes “Diplomacy only understands the language of violence,” and in order to get the US to lift sanctions against Iran, the country must increase its bargaining power by pushing its nuclear program.

He supported laws under which Iran drastically reduced its nuclear obligations and severely restricted the International Atomic Energy Agency’s access to its nuclear program – a piece of legislation that Rouhani did called harmful to Iran and one of the main obstacles to reaching an agreement with the West to lift economic sanctions.

During his tenure, Zarif made the Foreign Ministry the main government ministry for the past eight years and brought in a generation of Iranian diplomats to negotiate the nuclear deal, the most important diplomatic deal in recent Iranian history for the past 40 years. This is the Foreign Ministry that Amir-Abdollahian inherited, and he has a difficult job because he is inevitably compared to Zarif.

However, Amir-Abdollahian enjoys privileges that pave his way into diplomacy. The trust the IRGC and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have in him gives him more credibility than Zarif. All of this means that his term in office could greatly expand the role of the Foreign Ministry in shaping Iranian Middle East policy.


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