Iran names new Supreme National Security Council chief

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Iranian President Hassan Rowhani appointed on Tuesday former Defense Minister Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani as the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), the Fars News Agency reported.

The appointment was seen as a sign of a shift towards relative moderation under recently elected Rowhani, according to Reuters.

The SNSC is responsible for dictating defense and security policies under guidelines set out by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and for marshaling the country’s resources to confront domestic and foreign threats.

It is expected that the SNSC’s direct involvement will be reduced but not eliminated after Rowhani last week tasked the Foreign Ministry with taking the lead on future nuclear talks.

Shamkhani, who will succeed Islamist hardliner Saeed Jalili as Security Council chief, served as minister of defense under two-term reformist president Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005.

Shamkhani undertook a landmark visit to Saudi Arabia in 2000 in an effort to improve relations between the two rival countries.

Shamkhani is of ethnic Arab descent and is seen as aligned with the more pragmatic wing of Iranian politics. He earlier commanded Revolutionary Guard naval forces during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Shamkhani has written several books on military tactics and also taught military strategy in university, Mehr news agency reported.

Rowhani is remaking the foreign, nuclear and domestic policy teams in the country in an attempt to lessen ideological rigidity in decision-making. He was elected in June promising more transparency and less confrontation in Iranian foreign relations and to shore up the economy, in part by securing an easing of harsh sanctions imposed on Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

Last week Rowhani announced that Iran’s future nuclear negotiations would be transferred to the Foreign Ministry from the Security Council, although officials later said the latter would retain a role.

(With Reuters)

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