Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Resigns amid U.S. Confrontation

Iran’s foreign minister and architect of the landmark nuclear deal, Javad Zarif, resigned on Monday, hobbling the relatively moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani and its chances of keeping the pact alive, Wall Street Journal reported.

Zarif’s unexpected resignation, announced on his Instagram account late at night in Iran, signals a victory for Iran’s hard-liners, who favor confrontation with the West, as Washington ratchets up pressure on the country after pulling out of the deal.

His exit leaves a potential void in the world’s dealings with Iran, depending on who his successor is. Zarif had become the go-to person for foreign officials seeking to engage Iran on a multitude of issues including foreign policy, business and finance, and human rights.

Many Iran watchers see Zarif’s departure as a casualty of the Trump administration’s hard-edge policies toward Iran, which have sidelined moderates and empowered the country’s hard-liners.

According to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Zarif was at the frontline of the battle against America, IRNA reported.

Rouhani, who has not yet has not formally accepted the resignation, thanked Zarif, as well as Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh and central bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati for their role in confronting the United States, Reuters added.

“It’s certainly a major setback for the Rouhani administration and a victory for the hard-liners. It also showcases the adverse effects of Trump’s withdrawal from the deal for the more pragmatic forces of Iranian politics,” said Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst with International Crisis Group, a conflict-resolution think tank.

Zarif was absent on Monday morning for meetings in Tehran with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the commander-in-chief of the Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani. Iran watchers speculated that Mr. Zarif had been excluded from the meetings.

Zarif’s Instagram post caught foreign ministry staff and government officials off guard, according to a person familiar with the events. The news created a frenzy of late-night phone calls and negotiations to try to persuade Zarif to reconsider his decision and stay in his post. Officials told Zarif that his exclusion from the meetings with Assad wasn’t intentional and a result of bureaucratic mismanagement and praised him as a great Iranian leader. The person said Zarif was unmoved, the Journal noted.

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