Structural Changes in Iran Foreign Ministry; Speculations, Implications

Iran's Foreign Ministry

A few days after President Hassan Rouhani’s second term officially began, media reports are saying the Iranian foreign ministry will undergo major structural changes in Rouhani’s new administration, mainly with the aim of strengthening its role in Iran’s economic diplomacy.

When Rouhani’s first presidential term started in 2013, the case of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities was taken from the country’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and instead the ministry of foreign affairs took over the responsibility to pursue this important international case.

It seems to be the first and the most important dual mission of the Iranian foreign ministry, since it is difficult to separate the political and economic dimensions of the nuclear case.

After the nuclear deal and signing the JCPOA, the ministry of foreign affairs had to shoulder the heavy responsibility of this case which was in fact a combination of economic and political issues. However, the traditional structure of the ministry was not ready to play this role.

The nuclear agreement could not be achieved and no one could take over the complicated process of maintaining the deal in the domestic and international arena without FM Mohammad Javad Zarif’s great talent and the capacities of the active team of negotiators.

Zarif and his colleagues, who also enjoyed the trust of Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and the special trans-organizational permissions he gave the foreign minister, actually compensated for the heterogeneous and bureaucratic structure of Iran’s foreign ministry.

It should be acknowledged that, although US has not complied with its commitments under the deal, for several times the international organizations including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have certified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement which is  a success for the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs.

Now after having successfully completed the first “political-economic” mission in the international arena, the foreign ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran seeks to reorganise its administrative structure and its bureaucratic system to continue the process that it has been working on in the past four years.

Following the reintroduction of Zarif as the foreign minister in the second administration of Hassan Rouhani on August 8, the Tasnim News Agency has, in a Farsi article, unveiled a structural reorganization plan at the ministry of foreign affairs, which shows that the plan is in its final stages.

If this plan is approved and implemented, the responsibility of the nuclear deal will be transferred from the legal deputy to the political deputy, which means a more significant role for politics in smoothing the course of nuclear deal implementation.

 

Changes in the Structure of Ministry of Foreign Affairs

There are media speculations about structural and fundamental changes in Iran’s ministry of foreign affairs. According to a Farsi report by Tasnim, the media and even the lawmakers insist that the ministry needs some drastic changes in its economic departments to become more agile.

 

Draft Bill Ready to Be Submitted in Near Future

Recently, Deputy Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, Abolfazl Hassan-Beigi, said that a new structure of economic diplomacy will be created in the foreign ministry. He also announced that qualified people and experts would be recruited for this purpose.

Hassan-Beigi also stated that changes in some structures of the foreign ministry require parliamentary authorization, and some others have to be approved by the government.

“Provisions have been provided and the foreign ministry is supposed to submit a draft bill to the government, and then the government will send the bill to the parliament,” Hassan-Beigi added.

Moreover, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi has recently defended the ministry’s performance in the economic sphere, saying they are considering some mechanisms to boost the economic structure of the foreign ministry.

Based on some media speculations, four new posts called “Neighbourhood Deputy,” “Political Deputy”, “Citizens’ and Iranians’ Rights Deputy”, and “Economic Deputy” will be added to the structure of the foreign ministry and the “Political Deputy” will follow up the nuclear deal case.

Prior to this, there were only economic attachés in four countries of the world, but with the establishment of the “Economic Deputy”, this issue would be followed up more seriously. No news has yet been released on the removing or merging of other departments of the ministry.

Tasnim has come up with some new findings on the structural changes in the ministry.

The following are the possible changes in the ministry’s structure which are currently being discussed there.

 

Political Deputy; Link between Minister and Director-Generals

In this regard, it has been decided to demote the minister’s field deputies – including Deputy for European and American Affairs, Deputy for Arab and African Affairs, and Deputy for Asia and Pacific Affairs – to Director-Generals.

All of these director-generals will be linked to the minister via a deputy called “Political Deputy”, and the affairs will be followed up through this deputy. This change is being sought for what is called the “Agility in Foreign Affairs Ministry”.

 

Political Deputy to Take Over Responsibility for JCPOA

In another change, the nuclear agreement case will be forwarded to the Political Deputy from the Legal and International Affairs Deputy.

The purpose of this change seems to be sending a message to the world, especially the United States, saying that the legal proceedings of the JCPOA are over for Iran and are not subject to revision.

It seems that these changes to the foreign ministry are inevitable since its structure has not undergone a fundamental change over the past few decades. On the other hand, the world has been rapidly transformed over the course of these decades. However, it seems that no final agreement has been reached on this issue yet.

Furthermore, given the global and regional developments, it is important to pay more attention to the issue of economic diplomacy in the foreign ministry’s structure.

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