IRAN: Diplomatic two-step in Iran


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Tehran in recent days reshuffled its diplomatic team in key Middle East posts. It has cut short the tenure of its ambassador to Syria after just a two-year stint, replacing him with another hard-core loyalist of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Tehran government has also announced the departure of its point man on Iraq to a post in far-flung Japan.

The moves have sparked speculation that Ahmadinejad wants more control over the country’s foreign policy on Iraq and Lebanon.


But they could also just be complicated maneuvers to consolidate power within the ruling elite’s treacherous factional politics.

Hard-liners close to Ahmadinejad have long considered Iran’s Foreign Ministry a bastion of liberal-minded policy-makers close to former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who tried to open up Iran’s political system. They’ve sought to purge the ministry of liberals such as Sadegh Kharrazi, the former ambassador to France who’s now whiling his days away at a think tank in Tehran.

In recent days, Iran replaced its envoy to the ultra-sensitive Damascus post with Ahmad Moussavi, a mid-ranking Shiite Muslim cleric who served as Ahmadinejad’s vice president for parliamentary and legal affairs.

Moussavi, a former lawmaker, was the guy who twisted arms to push Ahmadinejad’s sometimes unpopular appointees through the parliamentary approval process. Now he’ll be running an embassy that largely oversees Tehran’s affairs in Lebanon, which has become a battleground for influence between Iran and the United States.

Iran has also ‘promoted’ Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi to the post of ambassador to Japan. The English-speaking Araghchi oversaw Iraq affairs, hobnobbed with Western diplomats in Tehran and met with U.S. officials during discussions over Iraqi security. But he is considered close to one of Ahmadinejad’s principal rivals, former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, who was pushed from his post last year and replaced with an Ahmadinejad loyalist.

— Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Fars News Agency