Reformists warn Europe that they need to get on with INSTEX and fulfill their promise soon or they’ll have to deal with hardliners instead. And how Rouhani tries to corner hardliners through a sensational episode among Iranians.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister and the Key Iranian diplomat behind the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) known as Iran Nuclear Deal, announced his resignation via Instagram yesterday. The announcement came as it was reported by Iranian media as his dissatisfaction over not being invited to the meeting between Iranian supreme leader and Bashar Assad.

At the meeting with Bashar Assad, the foreign minister of Rouhani’s so-called reformist government was absent while the two prominent hardliners Ali Akbar Velayati and Qasem Suleimani were present. The first is Iran’s foreign minister from 1981 to 1997 while the latter is the commander of the Quds Force, a division of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) responsible for conducting Tehran’s proxy wars in the region since 1998.

It is no mystery that the Iranian political spectrum is divided into two fronts by hardliners and the reformists with a dark abyss of hatred towards each other. As well, it is a well-known fact that Tehran is struggling to establish an alternative transaction system to overcome the U.S. pullout from the Iran Nuclear Deal. The start-up of the alternative trade plan known as Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) has been postponed by the European part on a weekly basis that has put Tehran passively on standby. This has given the hardliners the opportunity to give an even harder time to Rouhani’s government.

While the unexpected resignation of Zarif appeared as a surprise both inside Iran and abroad, it generated a wave of anxiety too. let’s break it down.

Although it is true that in Iran the last word is said by the supreme leader still it matters who carries out the business and who is the one in charge of foreign policy and how the policies are implemented. Zarif is highly educated and has a good understanding of the international relations and by far the best foreign minister Tehran has had since the Islamic Revolution. His position as foreign minister mollifies the West’s attitude towards Iran which means fewer troubles for Rouhani.

On the one hand, the charming political approaches of Iran’s Zarif the wrongdoings of Tehran have always publicly and on an international level been represented with a pure denial and whitewashing of Iran’s wrongdoings which has made things easier for Tehran. On the other hand, Europe has had a welcoming policy towards Zarif’s conduct as Europe does not want to confront Iran in a harder level at the moment. The West is aware of the consequences caused by replacing Zarif with a hardliner.

Zarif has been a master in bamboozling his counterparts around the globe; and there are not many adroit Iranian diplomats to fulfill that task.

Let’s imagine a hardliner such as Velayati to be the foreign minister; soon, he will openly admit the Iranian wrongdoings with a heroic gesture that will force Europe to follow the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia and express scorn in which can trigger military actions. And this is not what Europe wants currently.

The reactions inside Iran have been very much in favor of Rouhani and his government as people started begging Zarif to stay as the foreign minister immediately after his announcement and a heroic image of him has been portrayed.

On February 25, Rouhani gave a speech and bluntly said “We should reform the economy. The supreme leader has told me several times that the armed forces should stop interfering with the Iran’s economy and give the control back to people. The armed forces have important duties and should focus on them”. His message was clear and aimed at IRGC.

Today Rouhani rejected the resignation and Zarif gave a statement in which he appreciated the Iranian people and the president’s support. Zarif reiterated his point on the importance of the ministry he is in charge of.

The reformists are trying to give a warning signal to Europe that they need to get on with the alternative transaction system and fulfill their promise soon or they will have to deal with the hardliners instead. At the same time, Rouhani is trying to corner the hardliners through a sensational episode among Iranians.🔷

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(This piece was originally published on PMP Blog!. | The author writes in a personal capacity.)

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(Cover: Wikimedia/Fasih200 - Federica Mogherini and Mohammad Javad Zarif. | 2 Jul 2015. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)