Rouhani May Take Nuclear File From National Security Council

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A source close to President-elect Hassan Rouhani spoke with Aseman Weekly about the incoming administration’s potential cabinet appointments and behind-the-scenes activities. Traffic at the Center for Strategic Research, a think tank under the Expediency Council headed by Rouhani since 1992, has increased since his surprising election and speculation has run wild about who will fill his top cabinet positions and what influence key players such as former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani will have.

Rouhani has reportedly established various workshops and investigate committees to explore the state of each ministry and to create a 100-day plan to “exit the current problems.” An example of one of the major changes that could take place is the handling of Iran’s nuclear file.

According to the article, an idea that has been recommended would be to “transfer Iran’s nuclear file from the Supreme National Security Council [SNSC] to the president’s office.” Although Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has final say on nuclear policy in Iran, the implementation of Iran’s nuclear policy and, perhaps most importantly, negotiations with the West are run through the SNSC, which is currently headed by Saeed Jalili. Rouhani was secretary of the SNSC for 16 years and was in charge of negotiations from 2003 to 2005, an era when Iran reached a compromise with EU3 (United Kingdom, France and Germany).

The article stated that Rouani “would chose an individual to be responsible for the file and he would begin work under the direct supervision of Rouhani. In this way, it’s possible that [the supreme leader's foreign-policy adviser] Ali Akbar Velayati would be chosen as secretary of SNSC.” The article continued, “Mahmoud Vaezi would become foreign minister and Rouhani would take primary responsibility for the nuclear file.” Vaezi is an diplomat who is currently Center for Strategic Research Deputy of Foreign Policy and International Relations

Some have even recommended that Rouahni “pick representatives now and send them to France and Germany.” It is believed that “Rouhani intends to increase the level of expertise and representation of negotiations with the heads of five European countries and to participate directly in those meetings himself.”

The article also suggested that current foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi may head Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization because “Groups within Rafsanjani’s and Rouhani’s camps are happy with Salehi’s performance and he has had a good working relationship with Rouhani.”

Former presidential candidate Mohammad Reza Aref, who withdrew in favor of Rouhani at the request of former president Mohammad Khatami, apparently has not been mentioned for first vice president, or even any cabinet positions, as had been expected. Eshag Jahangiri, who was minister of industry under Khatami and briefly head of Rafsanjani’s campaign staff before his disqualification this year, may be chosen as first vice president.

Although Ahmad Masjed-Jamei has been mentioned for a possible position as culture minister, someone close to Rouhani had reportedly said, “Someone with the qualities of Masjed-Jamei must not be taken away from the city council.” Ali Younesi’s name has been mentioned for minister of intelligence, a post he occupied under Khatami.

The article from Aseman, which is considered close to Rafsanjani, said that neither Khatami nor Rafsanjani had presented their own list of cabinet preferences, despite rumors to the contrary.