Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, a relatively moderate politician who played a major role in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, resigned on Monday, according to a post he made on his Instagram account.
Zarif’s resignation was subsequently confirmed by Iran’s state-run news agency, IRNA. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani still needs to accept Zarif’s resignation.
While President Donald Trump has withdrawn the United States from the nuclear accord, Zarif, 59, had been working closely with European nations to keep the deal alive in some form. His departure throws that cooperation into question.
“I sincerely apologize for the incapacity to continue serving and all the shortcomings during the service,” Zarif wrote on Instagram in a somewhat strangely worded resignation. “Be happy and upbeat,” he added in the social media post.
The post included a drawing of Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.
No specific reason for Zarif’s departure was announced, but if he goes, it will be a victory for Iran’s hard-liners. Zarif has been the face of Iran’s diplomatic engagement with the world and he has long pushed for even deeper relations with the West. His departure could signal hawks within Iran’s government are ready to push back against the Trump administration, which has sought to isolate Tehran.
“We note @JZarif’s resignation. We’ll see if it sticks. Either way, he and @HassanRouhani are just front men for a corrupt religious mafia. We know @khamenei_ir makes all final decisions. Our policy is unchanged – the regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter late Monday while en route to Vietnam for a denuclearization summit.
“While Zarif is not above criticism, over the past forty years, the U.S. and Iran have had few clear channels for negotiations, and Zarif has long been a major proponent of U.S.-Iran negotiations and deescalation. Trump’s plan to collapse the nuclear deal may indeed be aimed at empowering radicals in Iran,” said Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that
advocates for diplomacy and greater understanding between the U.S. and Iran.
“Hardliners in the U.S. have long cheered for Iran to be led by radical elements to make engagement difficult and validate calls for sanctions and military action. Should Zarif bow out of Iran’s political theater, Trump and his team may be getting exactly what they wish for – and the world will be worse for it,” he said.
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Following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the accord, the White House re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran last year. As Iranians braced for the full restoration of those sanctions in November, Zarif told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview that his government would be open to talking to the U.S. about a new nuclear arms accord if Washington changed its approach to the deal it exited.
“Mutual trust is not a requirement to start negotiations – mutual respect is a requirement,” Zarif said in the wide-ranging, 45-minute interview. Zarif hinted in the interview that Iran’s government was waiting to see whether Trump would be a one-term president before deciding to completely abandon the nuclear agreement.
European nations, led by France and Germany, are trying to launch a financial mechanism to enable Iran to keep trading with some nations despite the U.S. sanctions. During a summit in Poland this month focused on the Middle East, Vice President Mike Pence demanded European nations withdraw from the nuclear deal.
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