Iran's foreign minister returns
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's resignation was as dramatic as his return. "The presidential office said the resignation had not been accepted," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said. Indeed, President Hassan Rouhani rejected Zarif's offer to leave. In an interview, Zarif had said he hoped his sudden resignation would act as a "wake-up call for restoring the Foreign Ministry to its real and legal position in foreign affairs." Zarif was the key architect in the landmark 2015 deal aimed at reining in Iran's nuclear programme, which US President Donald Trump withdrew from last year. He has been Iran's foreign minister since 2013 and is well known in western circles. He was educated in the United States and speaks English fluently. Earlier, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Iran on his first publicized official visit to the country since 2010, and Zarif did not appear in official photographs of the meetings. Assad met separately with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and with Rouhani. In both meetings, the leader of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, appeared alongside Assad. Soleimani is widely credited with being the mastermind of Iran's campaign to prop up Syria's embattled president during the country's ongoing war. Zarif's noticeable absence at the high-profile meeting appeared to be the latest in a string of tensions between the moderate government of Rouhani and hardliners, which include the Revolutionary Guards, backed by Khamenei. "Clearly there is dissatisfaction on Zarif's part with the way things are going in terms of the authority he and his ministry are experiencing," said Al Monitor's Iran Pulse Editor Mohammad Ali Shabani."It's not something that happened overnight. It's been going on since day one." Rouhani appeared to attempt to appease Zarif. In a speech, the president said Assad conveyed his thanks to the foreign minister and attributed Iran's "great success" in facing off with US sanctions partially to the foreign ministry. "In the region, we pulled off a great success and this great thing, this came on the back of efforts by all our forces. Part of that was on the shoulder of the foreign ministry, part of that was on the shoulder of the economy," said Rouhani. Zarif left Iran in 1977, received his undergraduate degree from San Francisco State University in 1981, his master's in international relations from the University of Denver in 1984 and his doctorate from the same University in 1988. "He plays a very unique role because there are not many like him in the system," said Shabani. His background and fluency in English may seem small things but they can have a big impact on how you conduct your work as the chief diplomat.