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Iran Makes Last Minute Delegation Change Before US Meeting | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The decision to assign the head of the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations (UN), Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, as the head of the Iranian delegation to Iraq was cancelled in the 11th hour before yesterday’s meeting with the American delegation headed by US Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker in Baghdad.

This decision was the outcome of the direct intervention of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in addition to the Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s blessing.

Dr. Mohammad Javad will be returning permanently to Iran at the beginning of July of this year.

It had been Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and the most influential man in Iran, Dr. Ali Larijani’s, suggestion to appoint Dr. Zarif as head of the delegation. Dr. Larijani had recently tendered his resignation, which was rejected by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as exclusively reported by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper last Monday 21st May. The secretary of Supreme National Security Council had suggested Zarif on condition that the delegation includes his brother, Dr. Mohammad Javad Larijani, who is known for his enthusiasm to resume relations between Iran and the US.

Mohammad Javad Larijani is one of the most distinguished experts in the field of physics in Iran. He had previously assumed the post of deputy foreign minister for several years during Imam Khomeini’s era.

Mohammad Javad Larijani was relieved of his duties after repeatedly calling for establishing relations with the US. Unlike his younger brother, Ali Larijani, Mohammad Javad holds a doctorate degree in physics from the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is fluent in the English language, and is furthermore known to admire American society and culture.

According to Asharq Al-Awsat sources in the Iranian capital, the subject of the presidency of the Iranian delegation to Baghdad is one that has occupied the Iranian leadership for several days. The leadership of the Iranian |Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is entitled with Iraqi affairs, had expressed concern that sending Zarif and Larijani to Baghdad would pose a threat to their interest and offer indirect support to the reformist and liberalist parties calling for a reconciliation with the United States.

Zarif is known for his liberalist orientations and for his close ties with the media and academic circles and US research centers specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. The leadership of IRGC was able to convince President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Mohammad Javad Zarif and Mohammad Javad Larijani are not suitable to represent the ‘Iranian revolution’ before the representatives of ‘Great Satan’, moreover adding that they were ill-suited to bear such a serious responsibility.

This information was affirmed by the Deputy Commander of the IRGC and supervisor of its intelligence authority, Brigadier General Morteza Rezaie, in a statement addressed to Ahmadinejad. A source close to the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani told Asharq Al-Awsat that after meeting with Ahmadinejad, the Supreme Guide expressed his objection to the dispatch of Zarif and Larijani as part of the delegation.

The source pointed out that Zarif himself had not been eager to chair the delegation and that he had informed the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki of that. This is based on his belief that the talks would revolve around security and intelligence issues, which Zarif maintained he was not entitled with and furthermore suggested that a more suitable candidate would be someone working with intelligence or with the IRGC.

Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, is a senior officer in the IRGC Al Quds force and was appointed Consul in the Afghan province of Herat after the fall of the Taliban regime. He was summoned to Tehran at the request of the Afghan government by virtue of “his activities that were contrary to diplomatic work”, after which he was sent to Iraq as an adviser to the Iranian charge d’affaires, Mohammad Irani, but soon replaced Irani and was thus promoted to the rank of ambassador in accordance with a direct order from the Iranian Supreme Guide and amidst the surprise of Foreign Ministry officials.

Asharq Al-Awsat has discovered that Kazemi-Qomi had been among the advisers to the military security committee, which is affiliated to the leadership of the Revolutionary Guard and which has been entitled with Iraqi affairs since 2004. Kazemi-Qomi has maintained close relationships with most of the Shiaa leaders in Iraq ¬– particularly militia leaders. Supreme Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, according to an Iranian source that closely observes the affairs of the supreme authority, had shunned Kazemi-Qomi since his arrival to Baghdad for a number of reasons, including the Iranian embassy’s attempts, during al Sistanti’s term, to weaken the status of the supreme authority through supporting people such as Muqtada al Sadr.

Tehran has dispatched three officers from the IRGC and the Al Quds force intelligence who are involved in Iranian affairs, as well as a diplomat who is a specialist in Iraqi affairs, to Baghdad to accompany Ambassador Kazemi-Qomi in his meeting with Ambassador Ryan Crocker and those accompanying him, according to a source from Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Iranian delegation will present a paper containing preliminary claims that Tehran believes need to be achieved as a serious first step towards a comprehensive settlement of the problems that have existed between the two countries since the past 28 years.

The demands include:

– Putting an end to all activities that aim at destabilizing the regime in Tehran, including the propaganda against the Iranian regime broadcast by the ‘Voice of America’ satellite channel, which has a large audience in Iran.

– The expulsion of elements of Mujahedin el-Khalq (MEK) from Iraq as a goodwill gesture, especially since the US considers MEK and the affiliated resistance council as terrorist organizations.

This is despite the fact that American forces allowed approximately 3,000 members of the MEK to remain in Iraq after they were disarmed at Camp Ashraf in the al Khales area (60 kilometers north of Baghdad) and remain under the tight grip of a Bulgarian battalion. Tehran believes that Washington might use these elements, as it did in Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance forces, to stir up unrest in Iran and in preparation for its potentially possible military attack.

– The release of the five detained officers of Al-Quds Corps who were arrested over four months ago in the area of Arbil in northern Iraq. Releasing dozens of Iraqis of Iranian origin who were detained by US forces in Iraq on various charges, including mediating in terrorist activities and supporting terrorists.

– The cancellation of arbitrary measures against Iranian clerics coming to Iraq to study in the hawzas of Najaf and Karbala, and to allow Iranians to visit holy shrines regularly without subjecting them to interrogation or provocative procedures.

Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper was informed that Iraqi Vice President, Adel Abdul Mahdi, has encouraged Iranian officials to show more flexibility than previously shown during talks with the American ambassador. This is in order to support the Iraqi government in overcoming ‘the Iranian complex’, which is a major obstacle confronting the process of strengthening the authority of the Iraqi government, in addition to the restriction of the American role in Iraq.