Iran Demotes Top Nuclear Diplomat in Foreign Ministry Reshuffle

Iran’s top international negotiator, Abbas Araghchi, has been replaced by a hard-line critic of the 2015 nuclear deal as world powers press Tehran and Washington to quickly revive the ailing accord after months of stalled talks.

Ali Bagheri Kani will take over from Araghchi as deputy foreign minister for political affairs effective immediately, following a reshuffle announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement Tuesday. Araghchi will be retained as an adviser to Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian. 

It’s unclear whether Bagheri Kani will also assume Araghchi’s more critical role of chief negotiator in efforts to revive the nuclear accord, which were put on hold after the election of President Ebrahim Raisi in June. 

The move means that one of Iran’s most experienced envoys -- involved in six rounds of talks this year -- may no longer be officially involved in efforts to restore the 2015 deal that reins in Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions, including those choking its oil exports. Former President Donald Trump quit the multinational accord, but President Joe Biden’s administration has supported efforts to rekindle it.

Bagheri Kani was a senior nuclear negotiator a decade ago during the presidency of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when talks to end a standoff with the West over Iran’s nuclear program weren’t successful. He is also close to the ultraconservative judiciary that Raisi used to lead before being elected president. 

Although he’s an experienced official and enjoys close proximity to some of the country’s most powerful institutions, Bagheri Kani doesn’t have extensive international experience and little is known about his foreign language abilities. 

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