What the Sudden Resignation of Iran's Foreign Minister Means

Tuesday, February 26, 2019 |  David Lazarus

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif resigned Monday night after complaining that Iran's foreign policy is “poisoned by infighting.” Zarif announced his resignation in an Instagram post, one of the few social mediums not blocked in the restrictive Muslim state.

A cloud of speculation hangs over the minister’s sudden notice as to the future of Iranian nuclear intentions. Zarif played a major role in negotiating the 2015 nuclear agreement intended to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Iran continues to threaten to use everything in its power to “utterly destroy Israel." Zarif’s resignation now puts the future of the deal into further doubt after President Donald Trump ended US involvement.

Iran’s hardliners never trusted Zarif’s negotiations with the West. There are speculations that Zarif finally decided to resign after he was excluded from participating in a recent visit to Tehran of Syria's President Assad. Iran has been the main supporter and instigator of Assad’s brutal war against his own people. Propped up with Russian and Chinese support, Tehran's foreign policy has been hardening towards Syria, and Zarif became an unwanted and unnecessary moderate element in the Iranian regime.

Zarif, who was educated in the US and holds a PhD in international law from the University of Denver, has been the face of Iran’s diplomatic and media efforts since 2013 to “reconciliation with the world.” But Iran’s nuclear intentions and aggressive regional belligerence towards Israel and other Middle East countries have isolated the country edging them even closer to Russia and China. The surprise departure of Zarif appears to be another step forward in the direction of a hardline Iranian leadership unwilling to abandon their belligerent agenda.

Iran is one of the world's largest oil producers, with annual exports worth billions of dollars. Under the strain of US and international sanctions, and a devaluation of its currency, the country is again experiencing large-scale protests over rising prices. Now with its moderate foreign minister out of the way, watch for Iran to come down hard on the protestors.

Reacting to Zarif's announcement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter that the Trump Administration's policy towards Iran would remain unchanged. “He (Zarif) and Hassan Rouhani are just front men for a corrupt religious mafia. Our policy is unchanged—the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people.”

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