Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, returned to his post just two days after saying he intended to step down, The New York Times reports.
Zarif’s move comes after President Hassan Rouhani rejected his resignation. There were smiles all around on Wednesday, as Zarif appeared alongside Rouhani during a welcoming ceremony for a visiting dignitary broadcast live on state television, the Times adds.
Despite his return, the major reason for Zarif’s resignation, his diminished status in the government, is not likely to change significantly, analysts told The New York Times.
Zarif – urbane, worldly and fluent in English – has for years been Iran’s public face to much of the world, and never more so than when he brokered a landmark deal with world powers curtailing Iran’s nuclear program.
But President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal last year sent Zarif’s stock sliding within Iran’s leadership, relegating him and his team of professional diplomats back to the sidelines.
According to The New York Times, because of these developments, it was not all that surprising this week when Zarif, left out of a meeting with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, reacted to the snub by hard-liners in Iran’s government by resigning. It was a bid to shame his rivals within the leadership and an attempt to reassert his influence, analysts said.
“The Foreign Ministry has been sidelined to such an extent when it comes to Syria and Iraq and all the regional security issues that it’s really embarrassing, and I think probably very frustrating for Zarif and for Iran’s professional diplomats,” said Roham Alvandi, a historian of Iran at the London School of Economics.
But it is doubtful that Zarif will return to his job with any more influence than when he left it, analysts said.
“A lot of this is the theatrics of Persian politics,” said Ali Ansari, a professor of Iranian history at the University of St. Andrews. “It’s part of a form: He’s gotten upset, so they have to come back and smooth the ego.”