Who is Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Raisi’s pick for Iran's FM?

Who is Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Raisi’s Arabic-speaking pick for foreign minister?
2 min read
11 August, 2021
Hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has named Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, a former top envoy for the MENA region, as his pick for foreign minister.
Abdollahian's close ties to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and Tehran's network of proxies across the Middle East [Getty - file photo]

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has named hardliner Hossein Amir-Abdollahian as his pick for foreign minister in a nominal cabinet presented to the country’s parliament for a vote of confidence.

The decision to appoint a hardliner as the country's top diplomat comes as little surprise to those observing the nascent moves of US-sanctioned Raisi, a mid-ranking Shia cleric who had served as the head of Iran's judiciary.

Analysts say an immediate consequence would be a much tougher line on talks to restore Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Negotiations to bring the US back to the tattered accord started in April and have carried on for six rounds, but neither Washington nor Tehran appear willing to make concessions.  

Amir-Abdollahian's potential appointment also marks a shift in the face of Iranian foreign policy. Mohammed Javad Zarif, his predecessor, was educated to doctoral level in the US, spoke impeccable English, and was known for his affable demeanour during meetings with Western diplomats.

Though Amir-Abdollahian reportedly speaks fluent English and Arabic, his prior media engagements have only been in Persian.

Educated in Tehran, analysts believe he may lack the confidence and cultural sensitivity displayed by Zarif in the global political stage - an asset of Iran's soft power since the nuclear deal was struck in 2015 and then abandoned by Trump in 2018.

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But Amir-Abdollahian's close ties to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and its network of proxies across the Middle East could play to the advantage of the Islamic Republic's influence in the region.

Between 2011 and 2016, he served as deputy minister of foreign affairs for Arab and African affairs.

Slain Quds' Force commander Qassem Soleimani reportedly resisted calls to remove him from the region-specific role during the early years of former President Rouhani’s moderate leadership - a sign that the IRGC trusted him in such a role.

Amir-Abdollahian later served as an adviser to former parliamentary speaker Ali Larijnai, and spoke frequently to hardline media.

His first emergence in the global scene was in 2007 - when he was part of a team of Iranian negotiators who met with US officials to discuss the security situation in Iraq - the first talks between the countries since the Islamic Revolution.

That year, he was named Tehran's ambassador to Bahrain.

He hails from Damghan, a town in Semnan province, the home region of two former presidents – Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Hassan Rouhani.