Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday appointed Jaberi Ansari as his new deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, replacing Abdul Lahyan, who has been appointed as adviser to the Iranian foreign minister.
Analysts believe that the changes reflect disagreements within the Iranian regime.
Bahram Qasemi replaced Hossein Jaberi Ansari as the Foreign Ministry spokesman. Jaberi Ansari had served as Iran’s ambassador to Beirut and the Foreign Ministry’s director general for Middle East and North Africa.
Last March, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper quoted sources as saying that criticisms against Abdul Lahyan, who manages the Iranian policy in the region, have followed U.S.-Iranian negotiations regarding the Syrian conflict. The sources added that these criticisms resulted from deep disputes with the foreign minister regarding the “new trends” of Iran’s foreign policy.
While the Iranian foreign affairs ministry refused to confirm such claims, White House spokesman Mark Toner announced last week that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the Syrian crisis with Zarif in Oslo. In this context, sources told Al-Monitor that Zarif, at the Oslo meetings, signaled that he has more authority on the Syrian file than he has had until now, and that Iran may be prepared to show more flexibility to advance a political solution.
Several Iranian media reports had talked about U.S. and Arab pressure exerted on Zarif to remove Abdul Layhan from his position as deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs.
However, Zarif refused to deny or confirm these reports, telling Khorasan newspaper in April that diplomatic arrangements were a normal procedure and adding that the Iranian diplomatic organism was under evolution.
Abdul Lahyan is a close friend of the Commander of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, and he is the first Iranian official to deny Soleimani’s injury in Aleppo. He is also considered a linking point between the Foreign Minister and the Commander of the Revolutionary Guard.