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Manouchehr Motakki, like his other colleagues in the Foreign Ministry, was among the fundamentalists in the Islamic Republic’s system. Once the leader of the political activities of Imam followers, and Iran’s consuls in Turkey and Japan, he never came short of doing and saying what top Iranian officials would command in the diplomatic arena. But why was such a cooperative character dismissed? Is Iranian diplomacy on the verge of big changes? Or are the conservatives within Iran’s government trying so hard to seize power that even someone like Motakki is no longer tolerated in the system anymore?
Ever since his first term as Iran’s Foreign Minister, Motakki had repeatedly mentioned his close ties with the Supreme Leader, Khamene’i. This had convinced many that Motakki is the Supreme Leader’s “man” in the office, someone who would ensure that foreign policy go the Ayatollah’s way. The fact is that Motakki was never all that close to Khamene’i, based on the Supreme Leader’s moderate reaction to his dismissal.
It seems more likely that Mottaki’s dismissal is the result of an uneasy coalition with President Ahmadinejad, who had to compromise with Iran’s Assembly in order to secure votes for his other candidates for vacant ministries. Soon after his selection of Foreign Minister in 2005, Ahmadinejad became disillusioned with Motakki’s incompetence and his inability to serve the Foreign Ministry needs as Ahmadinejad saw them. On several occasions, Motakki’s resignation was discussed – in 2007, 2008 and then again in August 2010 when Ahmadinejad announced the appointment of four permanent “special envoys” that would report to him directly. Everyone thought that Motakki would protest and at least make a threat to resign. He did not.
Many analysts point to Mottaki’s actual incompetence and his marginal role, even complete absence, from the foreign relations decision-making processes. During his term in office, nepotism and favoritism reached its highest level and many departments were shut down or brought under the control of various Ahmadinejad cronies. Mottaki created positions for several of his own relatives, including his wife and brother, in different governmental agencies and embassies. Iran’s relations with Western countries such as Great Britain and France deteriorated during his tenure, as did relations with India and African countries.
According to various sources, Iran’s diplomats did not read Motakki’s words as “official”, aware of clear differences between his and Ahmadinejad’s opinions. According to Iranian former diplomats, Motakki was blamed for not being able to prevent the passage of several International sanctions against Iran, namely the UN resolution condemning Iran’s violation of Human Rights, as well as the failure to secure a seat for Iran on UN Women or to calm the situation regarding Iran’s involvement in sending illegal weapons to Nigeria.
Maybe such explanations and assumptions have become par for the course. But, the fact is that neither Motakki’s dismissal nor his replacement was an ordinary matter. The appointment of Salehi to the post is important because Ahmadinejad’s government has had serious confrontations with the West over Iran’s nuclear program. Given Salehi’s appointment, we could speculate that the Iranian Foreign Ministry, which has had only formal and minimal influence on Iran’s nuclear talks, is once again at the center of the decision-making process in Tehran. Furthermore it seems that Iran’s President wants to have more say in Iran’s foreign diplomacy, which was not fulfilled by Motakki’s presence.
Many believe that Mottaki’s main objective during his five years as Foreign Minister was just to hold onto his job. Even after his humiliating dismissal, Mottaki did not lose his cautious language, only calling his firing as “un-Islamic, outside political or diplomatic norms, and disrespectful.” Perhaps he is trying to remain in Khamene’i’s good graces, in the hope of gaining power again in the near future.
By: Afsaneh Haddadian, Aslan Media Contributor
*Photo Credit: World Economic Forum
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