November 28, 2023

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Ali Shamkhani, architect of Iran-Arab relations, quits

TEHRAN – Ali Shamkhani, the former secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, announced on Sunday that he was leaving his top job after ten years.

Writing on Twitter, Shamkhani cited a poem from Iranian poet Mohtasham Kashani to the effect that he quit after the emergence of insinuations urging him to resign.

Nour News, a news outlet linked to the Council, confirmed Shamkhani’s resignation. It said the poem meant that Shamkhani would definitely leave.

Shamkhani has held the position since September 2013. Since then, he has been overseeing major cases ranging from the nuclear talks to regional negotiations with Iran’s Arab neighbors.

Shamkhani is a veteran military commander who served in various military positions. He served as a naval commander in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Under President Mohammad Khatami, he served as defense minister.

In the late 1980s, Shamkhani moved from the IRGC to the Army’s Navy.

Shamkhani campaigned for the presidential post in 2001. There are speculations that Shamkhani may be again considering another presidential bid after leaving the SNSC.

An ethnic-Arab, Shamkhani was the only Iranian official who was awarded the Order of King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. The order is a Saudi Arabian order of merit.

In January this year, Shamkhani’s reputation was overshadowed by the vociferous execution of one of his close aides during his time as defense minister. The aide, Alireza Akbari, was executed for spying for the MI6. Before his arrest and subsequent execution, Akbari was living in the UK but he reportedly came to Tehran at Shamkhani’s urging. Rumors had it at the time that Shamkhani was on the verge of resigning.

But he emerged victorious soon after he orchestrated the Iran-Arab thaw. Shamkhani played a key role in paving the way for Tehran and Riyadh to sign a Chinese-brokered deal in Beijing on March 10. The deal restored the Iran-Saudi diplomatic relations after seven years.

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