Soon after his slated inaugural on Sunday, Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani is likely to be surrounded by familiar faces in his cabinet — many of who have spent time in government during the tenure of former reformist President Mohamed Khatami.
If Iran’s Mehr and ISNA News Agencies are to be relied, Mr. Rouhani will nominate Mohammad Forouzandeh as the head of the Supreme National Security Council. That would effectively make Mr. Forouzandeh — a man with a deep security background — as Iran’s new chief nuclear negotiator in place of the outgoing Saeed Jalili, who lost to Mr. Rouhani in the presidential contest. Analysts point out that in order to head the National Security Council, the nominee must have the complete confidence of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on the country’s nuclear policy.
Mr. Forouzandeh, is a former member of the elite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), has been a Defence Minister in the past, and currently belongs to the National Security Council. He also heads the Foundation for the Oppressed and Disabled, a gigantic and somewhat opaque charitable organisation, which supposedly controls large parts of the Iranian economy.
Grappling with sanctions, which have targeted Iran’s oil exports, Mr. Rouhani is bringing back Bijan Zanganeh, an experienced hand in the energy sector, as the country’s Oil Minister. Iran has managed to overcome gasoline shortage by mainly developing its refining sector on a war-footing. But crude oil exports are down following the unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
Hoping for a rapprochement with Washington, Mr. Rouhani is set to bring in Javad Zarif — an urbane English speaking product of the University of Denver — as his Foreign Minister. A seasoned hand, Mr. Zarif has served with distinction as Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations.
Mr. Rouhani is yet to obtain parliamentary approval for his cabinet — a process that can encounter hurdles on account of the presence of several hardliners inside Parliament.