The news that seems to surprised all the media today: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fired and replaced Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, state-run Iranian media reported Monday. Mottaki had served as Ahmadinejad’s chief diplomat since the president was first elected in 2005.
In a brief statement on the president’s website, Ahmadinejad thanked Manouchehr Mottaki for his more than five years of service but gave no explanation for the change. He named nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi, who is also one of the country’s several vice presidents, to serve as interim foreign minister until a permanent replacement is found. What upset the Iranian President to take such a decision while Foreign Minister Mottaki was in the middle of an official visit to Africa ?
Noticed that over the past year, Iranian media have reported that lawmakers were pushing for Mottaki to be dismissed if more U.N. Security Council sanctions were imposed in response to the country’s nuclear program. According to the reports, the lawmakers felt he was not a strong or persuasive enough advocate for Iran on the international stage. Mottaki has been one of the public faces in the international debate over Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran maintains the program exists for peaceful purposes, but the United States and other Western nations have expressed concern that the program’s goals are more nefarious. Iranian diplomat approaches were unsuccessful. A fourth round of sanctions was imposed in June in response to Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a key part of its nuclear program that is of international concern because it can be used both for making reactor fuel and atomic weapons.
Iran’s nuclear policy, however, is determined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But, I think that isn’t coincidental the appointment of Head of Iran’s nuclear program at the head of the Tehran government diplomacy. Will there be a change in diplomatic strategy? Unlikely. At least not in relations with the West. But Ahmadinejad may be trying to improve relations with Arab states.
Mottaki – victim of Wikileaks disclosures ?
Although Mottaki’s resignation seems to be rather a struggle between interest groups close to President Ahmadinejad, remember that the results of Iran’s diplomatic approaches have received a serious blow as a result of disclosures made by the site Wikileaks. At first, Iran dismissed the State Department memos as “mischief” aimed at damaging Tehran’s ties with the Arab world and said that reading them would be “waste of time”. But Iran could not stay silent as the depth of the Arab worry made headlines around the world – including Saudi’s King Abdullah urging for a U.S. attack against Iran to “cut off the head of the snake”. In response, last week Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, told a security summit in Bahrain that Iran would never threaten Muslim neighbors. Authorities, meanwhile, have pressured Iranian newspapers to closely follow the state line on the WikiLeaks releases.