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Iran: 15 of 18 nominees approved for Rouhani’s Cabinet | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, center left, speaks during the debate on the proposed Cabinet at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, August 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, center left, speaks during the debate on the proposed Cabinet at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, August 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, center left, speaks during the debate on the proposed Cabinet at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, August 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Iranian parliament concluded four days of debate on new president Hassan Rouhani’s ministerial nominations on Thursday evening. In confidence votes held Thursday, 15 of the 18 candidates were approved as ministers in what Rouhani is calling his “Administration of Wisdom and Hope.”

Among the 18 candidates were six former ministers. Perhaps most notable is Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh, the new petroleum minister. He has already served as both petroleum and energy minister for a combined total of 17 years. He was petroleum minister under President Mohammad Khatami for eight years from 1997 to 2005, and before that energy minister for almost a decade under President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

President Rouhani’s new ministers are notable for their high level of education. Nine of the approved ministers hold PhDs, while five hold master’s degrees and one has only a bachelor’s degree. Of the PhD holders, two studied at seminaries. Two of the new ministers have studied abroad, as did two of the rejected candidates.

The average age of the candidates is 57.6, making it the oldest cabinet since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The eldest, Mohammad-Reza Nematzadeh, is 68; Ali Tayebnia is the youngest at 52.

In contrast, the average age of Hashemi Rafsanjani’s first cabinet was 41, which made it the youngest post-revolutionary Cabinet.

While three of Rouhani’s proposed ministers failed to pass the parliament’s confidence vote, it is interesting to note that the very controversial petroleum minister, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, managed to win 166 votes in favor, with 104 opposed.

Another nominee who faced heavy opposition during the debates, Mohammad Javad Zarif, received a staggering 232 votes in favor of his appointment to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Only 36 MPs voted against him.

In related news likely to be of great interest to foreign observers, Rouhani appointed former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, to the top post in the Atomic Energy Organisation on Friday, according to Iranian state news. Salehi will now take charge of Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

Rouhani’s Cabinet

• Minister of Agriculture: Mahmoud Hojjati, 58. He was the governor of the Balouchistan province before becoming the Minister of Roads and Transportation during the first Khatami administration.

• Minister of Communications and Information Technology: Mahmoud Vaezi, 61. He served as deputy to Rouhani after the latter was named director of the Center for Strategic Research of the Expediency Council, and also held various deputy foreign minister positions under Rafsanjani.

• Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance: Ali Jannati, 64. He is the son of the highly conservative Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, but a close ally of centrist Hashemi Rafsanjani. He was deputy interior minister for political affairs under Ahmadinejad briefly, before being dismissed from that post in 2006.

• Minister of Defense: Hossein Dehghan, 56. He was a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps during the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988) and was named the head of the Political, Defense and Security Committee of the Expediency Council in 2010.

• Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance: Ali Tayebnia, 52. He was the secretary of the Economic Committee of the Presidential Office for three years after 1997, then again for a year and a half after 2005. He also served as a senior official in the presidential office under Khatami for four years.

• Minister of Energy: Hamid Chitchian, 56. He has held a variety of posts in the energy ministry since 1992 and was the deputy minister under Ahmadinejad. He has also been an intelligence chief in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

• Minister of Foreign Affairs: Mohammad-Javad Zarif, 53. He served as a deputy foreign minister under Khatami before being appointed Iran’s ambassador to UN. He was dismissed from his UN post under Ahmadinejad. He holds an American PhD andZarif led nuclear talks with Western powers from 2003 to 2005 along with Sirous Naseri.

• Minister of Health: Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi, 54. He is a professor of ophthalmology and has held fellowships at American and European universities. He was a senior advisor to the then-health minister from 1997 to 2001.

• Minister of Industry, Mines, and Trade: Mohammad-Reza Nematzadeh, 68. He served as Minister of Industry in both Rafsanjani administrations, then as deputy petroleum minister under Khatami and Ahmadnejad.

• Minister of Intelligence: Mahmoud Alavi, 59. He has been an MP for 16 years and was a senior member of Rouhani’s campaign team.

• Minister of the Interior: Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli, 54. He has held various deputy minister positions and has been the head of the Supreme Audit Court since 2008.

• Minister of Justice: Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, 54. He is the only new minister who served under Majmoud Ahmadinejad, and he has held various positions in the Ministry of Intelligence since 1987.

• Minister of Labor: Ali Rabiei, 58. He was a member of the labor branch of the Islamic Republic Party after the Islamic Revolution and was part of the committee established to draft the Islamic Republic’s Labor Law.

• Minister of Petroleum: Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh, 61. He has been a minister in every government except Ahmadinejad’s over the last 30 years.

• Minister of Roads and Urban Development: Abbas Akhoundi, 56. He holds a PhD in civil engineering from a British university and was previously the Minister of Housing under Hashemi Rasanjani.