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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani presented his cabinet to parliament for a vote of confidence on Tuesday, keeping in place the chief architect of Tehran’s nuclear accord with global powers. In his first term, Rouhani championed an agreement with the United States and five other powers in 2015 that led to the lifting of most sanctions against Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.
The cabinet list, published on state media, shows Rouhani has re-appointed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the lead negotiator in the nuclear deal, and Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, who is credited with increasing oil production after the lifting of sanctions. Rouhani has intensified efforts to protect the deal against Washington’s return to an aggressive Iran policy. He warned US President Donald Trump on Saturday that tearing up the accord, as Trump had promised during his election campaign, would be a political suicide.
Trump signed into law new sanctions against Iran last week in response to a missile development programme and human rights abuses. Tehran called the new sanctions violation of the nuclear deal and vowed a “proportional” response. The Iranian lawmakers are not expected to challenge Rouhani’s picks for the critical ministries of foreign affairs, defence and intelligence as presidents select them with the approval of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The powers of the elected president are limited in Iran by those of the Supreme Leader, who is commander-in-chief of the armed forces, appoints the head of the judiciary and dictates major policies of the Islamic Republic. Mahmoud Alavi has been kept as the intelligence minister as Tehran faces an increasing challenge from Islamist militants.
The Intelligence Ministry announced on Tuesday that it had broken up a group linked to Islamic State which was planning attacks in religious centres in the country. The army commander, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, is named as the new minister of defence. While he spoke about women’s rights during his campaign, Rouhani did not name any woman to become a minister. His hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had one female minister in his cabinet, that was opposed by some clerics.
Rouhani also has a debt to pay to the officially sidelined, but more popular reformists who put their weight behind his campaign. They have asked for a bigger share in the cabinet. ISNA news agency reported that Eshaq Jahangiri, senior reformist figure, has been re-appointed by Rouhani as the first vice president.
Rouhani, who was decisively re-elected in May after promising to open Iran up to the world, took the oath of office before parliament on Saturday in the presence of foreign dignitaries including senior European figures.