Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tendered his resignation earlier today:
Iran’s top diplomat, an architect of the landmark nuclear deal, resigned on Monday, hobbling the relatively moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani and its chances of keeping the pact alive.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif’s unexpected resignation, announced on his Instagram account late at night in Iran, signals a victory for Iran’s hard-liners, who favor confrontation with the West, as Washington ratchets up pressure on the country after pulling out of the deal.
Zarif has been under pressure from hard-line critics inside Iran for years, and that pressure has increased significantly since the U.S. withdrawal last year from the nuclear deal that he negotiated. His resignation seems to be an acknowledgment that hard-liners have gained enough ground at home that he is no longer able to do his job effectively. It appears that the proximate cause for Zarif’s decision was his exclusion from a high-profile meeting with the visiting Syrian President Assad:
Sources in #Iran tell me:#Zarif's resignation caught everyone off guard & send officials into a frenzy of late-night phone calls & negotiations to get him to reconsider. They told him his exclusion of Assad meeting was not intentional & mismanagement. Zarif did not budge.#Iran
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) February 26, 2019
It is possible that Zarif’s resignation won’t be accepted, but the fact that he felt the need to offer it shows that his position has been steadily eroding over the last year. Hard-liners are in the ascendant inside Iran, and that is due in no small part to the Trump administration’s destructive and bankrupt Iran policy. Iran hawks may like to pretend that Iran doesn’t have domestic politics and that there are no differences between relative moderates and hard-liners, but this latest development proves them wrong once again. Their preferred policies have consistently empowered the political forces in Iran that are most hostile to the U.S. and engagement with Western governments, and today they have just delivered Iran’s hard-liners one of their biggest wins in years.