Injecting fresh uncertainty into stalled efforts to restore the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s new president has appointed Mohammad Eslami, a U.N.-sanctioned engineer, as the nation’s top atomic official. He replaces Ali Akbar Salehi, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology–trained nuclear scientist who led the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) for the past 8 years.
Salehi and former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz were the chief architects of the 2015 agreement, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which restrained Iran’s efforts to produce the enriched uranium or plutonium needed for a nuclear weapon in return for relief from economic sanctions.
“Salehi was such a crucial figure in getting the deal done that I can’t see any upside in his departure,” says Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Project at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
The Trump administration pulled out of the JCPOA in May 2018, after which Iran took several steps to resume nuclear activities prohibited under the agreement, including experimenting with advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium, reaching higher enrichment levels, and working uranium metal—a skill needed to build a bomb.
U.S. President Joe Biden has vowed to rejoin the pact, but Iran remains at odds with the United States and other signatories, including China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. The last round of talks in Vienna aiming to restore the JCPOA ended in June and Iran has not signaled whether it will commit to another round.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi replaced Salehi as part of a broader purge of moderate voices in the previous administration. (Raisi also replaced another key figure in JCPOA negotiations, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif.) Raisi appointed Eslami as AEOI’s president on 29 August; Eslami will also serve as one of Raisi’s vice presidents. Eslami, who earned civil engineering degrees from the University of Detroit and Ohio University, served as housing and transport minister in Iran’s previous administration.
Source » iran briefing