Who Will Be on Iran’s P5+1 Negotiating Team?

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Reformist Etemaad newspaper has drawn a list of potentials for President-elect Hassan Rouhani’s new nuclear negotiating team. Yesterday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told reporters that negotiations with the P5+1 will continue once Rouhani takes office and picks a new negotiating new team.

“Given that one of the most important topics of the presidential debates was Hassan Rouhani’s criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s actions and decisions in the field of foreign policy, and given that the P5+1 is expecting a new round of nuclear negotiations with Iran, the composition of Iran’s top negotiators to push forward Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic goals is of high importance,” read the article.

The piece continued, “It would appear that Iran’s diplomatic team will be composed of seasoned diplomats and professional negotiators. And this group, from the view of experience, will have no similarities to the present group.”

The first name on the list is Mohammad Javad Zarif. The attributes that would make Zarif appropriate for Rouhani’s negotiating team, according to Etemaad, are that Zarif was “ambassador and permanent representative of Iran to the United Nations (2002-2005), senior assistant to the foreign ministry, legal and international deputy for the foreign ministry, secretary of the Tehran Islamic Summit Conference, a professor of international relations and a former member of Rouhani’s negotiating team (2003-2005).”

The supreme leader’s foreign-policy adviser and former foreign minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, is the second on the list. “Numerous times in the presidential debates, [Velayati] and Rouhani confirmed each other’s positions and deeply criticized the performance of [current negotiator] Saeed Jalili, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC),” the article stated. “Given Velayati’s experience in the field of foreign policy and foreign relations, news that he may head the Supreme National Security Council could be true.”

Also on the list is Cyrus Nasseri, former representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, who Etemaad calls “one of the most experienced ambassadors in Geneva.” Former ambassador to Germany and spokesman for Rouhani’s negotiating team Seyed Hussein Mousavian is also on the list.

Iran’s former ambassador the United Nations in Geneva and deputy of research at the Center for Strategic Research (which Rouhani heads) Mohammad Reza Alborzi is also mentioned. Amir Hossein Zamani-nia, former ambassador and senior manager at Iran’s New York UN office, is also believed to be a potential member of Rouhani’s negotiating team.

Others Etemaad believes could join Rouhani’s negotiating team include

  • Seyed Mohammad Sadr, Reformist politician and senior foreign policy advisor to former president Mohammad Khatami
  • Ali Jannati, who “although Ayatollah Jannati’s son, is close in views to Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani,” ambassador to Kuwait and “has a close relationship with Rouhani”
  • Fereydoon Vardinejad, former ambassador to China and for eight years director of Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)
  • Mahmoud Vaezi, former diplomat and adviser to Rouhan’s 2013 presidential run.
  • Ali Akbar Salehi, current foreign minister
  • Mohammad Saeedi, former deputy head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran
  • Gholam Ali Khoshro, Reformist politician and adviser to Khatami
  • Mohammad Mehdi-Akhoundzadeh, former ambassador and advisor to the SNSC and Foreign Ministry deputy

Supreme Leader Ayatolah Ali Khamenei has the final say on Iran’s nuclear policy. Negotiations with the P5+1 are carried out by the Supreme National Security Council. It is believed that Rouhani, given his history and experience, will be more involved negotiations than Ahmadinejad, who recently said, “It’s been some time that I have not been involved in this case.”