Previous foreign minister Zarif and current foreign minister Amir. Source: www.iranintl.com
From the new cabinet, the new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, is the one whose appointment was noticed on a large scale, even in the international community.
After the results of the voting at the parliament were released on August 25th, 2021, the former Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter to congratulate his former deputy on becoming his successor. The former Iranian foreign minister also wished “him, the ministry and its officials, and the new administration, all success in international relations.”
On the international level, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was on the first to congratulate Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on his winning of vote of confidence and he also expressed his satisfaction with the high level of the partnership between Iran and Russia, which is gradually developing in various fields and recalled the time when Amir-Abdollahian served as the deputy foreign minister and the special advisor to speaker of the Iranian parliament during which he supported solidifying relations between Iran and Russia. The Russian diplomat further said he counts on the new Iranian foreign minister “for close cooperation with the aim of increasing the engagement of our countries in the interest of two friendly nations to strengthen international cooperation, peace and security.”
After the congratulatory message from the Russian foreign minister Lavrov on August 25th, the Yemeni and Kuwaiti foreign ministers took the lead to congratulate their new Iranian counterpart, followed by the Azeri foreign minister.
Moreover, in terms of upcoming foreign policy, this choice of foreign minister could mean that a new path for the nuclear dossier discussion is being prepared. Given what he told the parliament during the hearings that preceded the vote of confidence, the new foreign minister will sit on the negotiating table, but not treat the nuclear deal as among his country’s top priorities. As such, the priorities are sure to be relations with the region, meaning Arab neighbors, central Asian neighbors, Turkey, Russia, and certainly Iran’s strategic partner China (the negotiation of this strategic deal having been one the main achievements of the current minister). Therefore, experts assume that a rather Asian-centric foreign policy will be followed by the new minister.
Iran’s new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, seems to have been hand-picked by the supreme leader, and is seen as being a true follower of Ali Khamenei’s philosophy, in the sense of adhering to the goals of Iran’s revolution while taking a pragmatic approach to foreign policy. While Mohammad Javad Zarif, the previous foreign minister, spent his education years understanding the West, Amir-Abdollahian’s career has been spent in the Middle East. He is aware of the nuanced cultural differences between people of the region, also from his position as ambassador in Bahrain and as director and deputy minister in the Foreign Ministry for the Persian Gulf, Arab and African regions.
As for Iran’s allies and partners in the region, from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Yemen, Amir-Abdollahian’s personal relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, Palestinian factions and the Yemeni Houthi group are sure to have a huge impact on how the Iranian interests are going to be handled when disputes arise, even with its traditional allies.
Given Amir-Abdollahian’s special relationship with the Quds Force, his main task will likely be to advance the organization’s regional plans in the Middle East. As a result, the role of the Foreign Ministry could be lowered to a level where it is only in charge of coordinating and meeting the demands and will of the military officials, especially the IRGC, in the Middle East. As a result, it should probably be expected that the new foreign minister will not play a role similar to that of Zarif in the past eight years. Additionally, President Raisi’s comments to date signal that the new foreign minister will have less presence in international forums and less control over the country’s sensitive issues.