Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), resigned from his post last week in a tussle that would empower conservatives in the country.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi appointed Ali Akbar Ahmadaian, a prominent commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in his place.

Shamkhani, 67, appeared in Beijing two months ago at the signing of Iran’s agreement with Saudi Arabia to normalize the relationship between the two countries. But on May 22, he hinted on Twitter that he would be leaving his post soon. Nour News, affiliated with the SNSC, retweeted Shamkhani’s post.

Shamkhani served in the SNSC for 10 years. He played a central role in Iran’s strategic security dossiers during this time, including negotiations with the Saudis in Baghdad and normalizing relations with other Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan as well as in the nuclear negotiations and efforts to overcome US sanctions.

He hails from Arab descent, his fluency in the Arabic language and connection to Arab tribes helped in Iran’s efforts to resume relations with Saudi Arabia and improve relations with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.

Shamkhani maintained a close relationship with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei over the years, making him a trusted figure and confidant of the regime. However, conservatives criticized him for his diplomatic approach to solving Iran’s issues in the region and with the international community.

His critics also took issue with his Reformist affiliations, as he was appointed by Reformist President Hassan Rouhani. When the government was taken over by conservatives under Ebrahim Raisi in 2021, Shamkhani came under great pressure to resign. He resisted for years before finally giving up the post.

An informed source told Al-Monitor that Shamkhani’s resignation is tied to the nuclear negotiations. Shamkhani supported a deal with the United States during both Rouhani’s and Raisi’s governments. Conservatives slammed Rouhani’s government for signing the deal in 2015 and have called on the Raisi government not to sign a renewed deal with the United States.

Ali Akbar Ahmadaian is a prominent IRGC commander with a history of revamping Iran’s navy and developing its defense capacity. He is well known for his knowledge and skills in asymmetrical warfare in Iran’s conflict with the United States.

Among other IRGC commanders, Ahmadaian came under sanctions by the United States three years ago.

Khamenei also appointed him recently to Iran’s powerful Expediency Council and made him his special representative in the SNSC.

Despite his strong support in Iran, his lack of connections to regional leaders and weak diplomatic experience are likely to pose significant challenges for him in leading the SNSC, which requires strong diplomatic skills as well as strong connections in the region. These weaknesses could undermine Iran’s progress toward rapprochement with regional countries.

The changeover indicates that Iran’s conservatives are taking tighter control over the government even as Khamenei appears to embrace rapprochement with Arab neighbors.

Source » al-monitor