In a dramatic move, Iran's new
neo-conservative government on Wednesday announced
that the terms of about 40 diplomats and
ambassadors on missions to foreign countries would
expire by the end of the current Iranian year
(March 20, 2006).
Attempting to temper the
predictable onslaught of speculation the massive
recall would incite, Foreign Minister Manouchehr
Mottaki said: "Some of the ambassadors have
reached the age of retirement and have applied for
it. New diplomats should replace them."
he described the drastic changes affecting nearly
half of the
Islamic republic's foreign
posts, Motakki insisted in characterizing the
changes as normal.
With London, Paris,
Berlin, Rome, Dehli, Baghdad and the UN missions
in New York and Geneva said to be listed, critics
noted that President Mahmud Ahmadinejad intended
to remove key negotiators and diplomats who had
been involved in months of delicate mediation
between the Islamic republic and Europe over
Tehran's nuclear program.
assurances failed to silence critics. Instead,
commentators insist that the dismissals signal the
Ahmadinejad administration's intolerance for
moderates and those closely identified with the
reformist policies of former presidents Mohammed
Khatami and Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Ahmadinejad caused an international storm by
saying Israel should be "wiped off the map".
Observers cite the Abadgaran coalition's
censures of Khatami for agreeing to freeze nuclear
activities during previous negotiations. The
challenge of second-generation revolutionaries to
the clerical supremacists is spearheaded by a
right-wing coalition known as the Abadgaran
Iran-e-Islami (Developers of Islamic Iran).
Although it is widely assumed that Abadgaran is a
"neo-conservative" coalition with strong links to
the establishment, the grouping is in fact made up
mostly of second-generation revolutionaries
critical of traditional conservatives who strive
to reconcile the values of the Islamic revolution
with Iran's current realities.
observers note the almost immediate replacement of
nuclear negotiator Hasan Rohani with conservative
Ali Larajani months ago (following Ahmadinejad's
surprise presidential election victory in June) as
a key indicator that the wave of replacements is
not normal but is a policy change.
importantly, however, seems to be that a number of
ambassadors are not near completing their tenures.
For instance, London's relatively popular Muhammad
Hossein Adeli will be completing the first of two
years of deployment come March. Similarly, Mohmmad
Ghasem Ali is just six months into his posting in
Therefore, neither man appears
to be of retirement age come March 2006. While
Mottaki informed the majlis (parliament) of the
removals on Wednesday, news of the recalls had
been known to some for more than a month.
Such a move supports reports that the new
executive branch is not communicating with its
traditional allies in the now
conservative-dominated legislative branch
(majlis). As a result, the majlis has caused
problems for Ahmadinejad already by opposing four
of his proposed cabinet ministers.
Mottaki reinstating Mohammad Zavad Zarif,
ambassador to the United Nations in New York,
within 24 hours of the public statement of his
dismissal, a similar situation may occur over the
postings at other missions.
conflicting signals are emanating from Tehran. In
the past several days, Iranian officials were said
to have granted UN inspectors access to a military
site. Simultaneously, word spread that Tehran had
also decided to begin processing a new batch of
uranium at its Isfahan plant next week. The
Islamic republic froze all work there last year as
a show of good faith under a deal with France,
Britain and Germany - the EU-3. On Ahmadinejad's
inauguration, Tehran removed International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) seals in August, which
prompted the EU-3 to suspend talks. Within days,
the IAEA will meet to discuss sending Iran to the
UN Security Council for possible sanctions.
Also adding to the conflicting signals
coming out of Iran are the expanded powers of the
Expediency Council. Under new rules, the council
has supervisory power over the executive,
legislative and judiciary powers, but can also
originate top-down decision-making to shape macro
and micro policies.
In addition many
believe that the nuclear dossier has moved from
the office of the president to that of Rafsanjani,
the chairman of the Expediency Council.
an October 27 report from Aftab-i Yazd, Rafsanjani
denied controlling the nuclear dossier. "This is
not true and nothing has been said about this."
Acknowledging that support for the nuclear program
enjoyed solid and wide support, Rafsanjani
continued, "There is no need for my presence there
... this is a collective matter and does not
involve negotiations alone. The collective is
behind the case."
statement may likely be the typical obfuscation of
an Iranian official, Ahmadinejad continues to take
the offensive to strengthen his handling of
As of now, the
Islamic republic's news regarding its diplomatic
corps is the biggest purge since the 1979
revolution. With Ahmadinejad having arguably
succeeded with his first revolution in June, just
by being elected, the impending changes and
confusion signal an attempt for another.