Claims that nuclear file taken from Zarif, Foreign Ministry prove false

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Reformist newspaper Shargh has reported that claims by hard-line media that the nuclear file has been taken away from the Foreign Ministry and handed back over to the Supreme National Security Council are inaccurate and not backed up by facts or official statements.

In an article titled “Nuclear team under propaganda pressure,” Shargh questioned many of the claims made by hard-line weekly 9 Dey, whose story was picked up by foreign-based Persian-language website Digarban with the title “Management of nuclear case has been taken from Foreign Ministry” and shared widely on social media. Shargh also forced an Iranian official to clarify the statements that many websites had quoted. The official said that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had requested the formation of a conservative supervisory council to keep an eye on the negotiation team on behalf of conservatives in parliament.

9 Dey, whose editor is hard-line parliament member Hamid Rasaee, wrote, “The successive mistakes of the negotiation team are the source of the decision of the system in returning the train of the negotiations back to its former rails, meaning the Supreme National Security Council” [SNSC].

One of President Hassan Rouhani’s surprising moves was transferring the responsibility of the negotiations over to the Foreign Ministry, to be headed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Previously, the head of the SNSC headed the negotiations. Rouhani’s decision gave himself and his foreign minister more control over the day-to-day negotiations, while major decisions would still be made at the SNSC. In both cases, the supreme leader would have final say on all decisions.

Shargh, however, noted that there was no proof or documents to show that neither the supreme leader nor anyone else has made such a decision. They also spoke to an anonymous Foreign Ministry source, who said that these claims are “not real” and meant for “media controversy.”

9 Dey also claimed that Ayatollah Khamenei had given warnings to Rouhani’s administration on the “numerous weaknesses and legal and technical problems from the Geneva agreement.” Shargh noted that after the interim deal was announced, Khamenei supported the agreement in his open letter to Rouhani and that there has not been anything contradicting those initial sentiments.

There has always been controversy over whether the supreme leader personally demanded a supervisory council for the negotiation team.

Conservative members of Iran’s parliament and Zarif have been entangled in a power struggle since the negotiations began. After complaining that Zarif has not been forthcoming on details of the negotiations, hard-line members of parliament’s Foreign Policy and National Security Committee (FPNS) were able to have two individuals added to the negotiation team as a “supervisory council.”

Many websites reported that Ahmad Bakhshayesh Ardestani, a member of parliament’s FPNS, said, “The formation of a supervisory council to the negotiation team is a demand of the supreme leader.” When Shargh contacted Ardestani to confirmation the quote, he changed his story. He told Shargh that he was “misquoted” and that his meaning was rather “high officials of the system.”

Yesterday, Rouhani’s adviser stated that the Foreign Ministry had rejected a supervisory council. However, hours later, he denied making the statements to the administration-run Islamic Republic News Agency and added that the administration and the Foreign Ministry have “no information” on the supervisory council.