Ahmadinejad's new cabinet: more conservative than ever
Former British ambassador to Iran suggests ways to negotiate over nuclear policy.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cabinet nominations, scheduled for a parliamentary vote this Wednesday, reveal a shift towards figures suspicious of the outside world, including some associated with the Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary group charged with protecting Iran's Islamic revolution from threats at home and abroad.Skip to next paragraph
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Perhaps most indicative of a pugnacious stance towards the outside world is Mr. Ahmadinejad's choice of Ahmad Vahidi as defense minister. Mr. Vahidi is a former leader of the Quds Force, a Revolutionary Guard unit that has helped arm and train militant groups outside Iran. He is wanted by Interpol for his alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina that killed 85 people.
Ahmadinejad's choice for interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, is a Revolutionary Guard veteran, and Heydar Moslehi, his choice for intelligence minister, has worked closely with the basiji, the civilian militia supervised by the Revolutionary Guard that was used to smash postelection protests.
Though Ahmadinejad's choices are generating some controversy in parliament, particularly his nomination of three women for cabinet posts, it appears likely that most of his choices will win approval, lending an even more hard-line sheen to the Iranian government as the Obama administration's informal September deadline for progress in nuclear negotiations draws nearer.
Sir Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Tehran, argues that while Ahmadinejad's new cabinet may rule out "any softening of domestic policy" the composition of the new government in Iran will have little impact on international nuclear talks, particularly with the US.
"We are very much where we were before the [Iranian presidential] election," Sir Richard says in an interview. "The odds [against successful talks] have worsened, but not by much.… It was always going to be very hard. We can't pick Iranian representatives or their policy, ever."
Sir Richard was Britain's ambassador to Iran between 2002 and 2006, a period in which the European Union carried out extensive negotiations with Iran as Tehran suspended uranium enrichment, the most sensitive part of its nuclear program. It was also a time when the British Embassy in Tehran was attacked by a suicide bomber, was shot at four times, and had all its windows broken seven times.