Iran: moving the nuclear file?

In Iran, when it comes to the nuclear program, its the supreme leader who has the final word.  

One level below him is the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC). This link provides some basic information about this body (among other important political bodies in Iran).

In terms of managing nuclear negotiations, the responsibility is that of the SNSC.

However there are reports emerging from Iran that recommendations are being made to Rouhani by his advisers that the responsibility for the nuclear file is transferred from the SNSC to the president.

As Al Monitor’s Iran Pulse reported on July 16th, this was first mentioned in mid July in Asseman Weekly, a publication close to Rafsanjani. This news was published again today by the conservative Jahan News.

One way of interpreting its repeated appearance is that these recommendations have momentum behind them.

The reason which Jahan News says that Rouhani’s advisers are recommending this move is because it would enable the presidential office to make the necessary coordination between the Ministry of Defense, Intelligence, the Foreign Ministry as well as Iran’s Atomic Organization.

But the SNSC could do that and has been doing that for years by chairing meetings where representatives of the aforementioned ministries, together with the president and chiefs of the armed forces are all present. So what would be so different this time?

There are several possibilities.

One is that by requesting such a move, Rouhani is trying to increase his power base. Having the nuclear file will undoubtedly give him more domestic influence. This is something which Ahmadinejad did not have. In fact towards the end of his presidency he admitted that he had not been involved in nuclear decision making for a while.

The other interpretation is that when it comes to future strategies for the nuclear program especially regarding negotiations with the West, Rouhani wants to weaken the influence of military bodies such as the Army and the IRGC who have seats on the SNSC.

Or to put simply, to de-militarize the management of the nuclear file and instead allow experienced foreign policy technocrats such as Javad Zarif to manage this issue.

This could actually be a positive development for the West and for those wishing to find a negotiated settlement for Iran’s nuclear program.

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