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Iranian Parliament Approves New President's Hard-Line Cabinet

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi

Iran’s parliament has approved almost all of President Ebrahim Raisi’s hard-line nominees for a cabinet, enabling him to form a government that will have the task of implementing his plans to ease U.S. sanctions and tackle a deepening economic crisis.

Lawmakers on August 25 voted to approve 18 out of the 19 candidates chosen by Raisi for the ministerial posts, rejecting only the pick for the education portfolio.

Anti-Western Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was approved as Iran’s new foreign minister. The 57-year-old senior diplomat is believed to have close ties with Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Lebanon's powerful Hizballah militant movement, and other Iranian proxies around the Middle East.

As deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs from 2011 to 2016, he helped implement regional policies enforced by the IRGC's overseas military unit, the Quds Force. He was deputy chief of mission at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad from 1997-2001.

Ahmad Vahidi, a former defense minister and Quds Force commander, was approved as interior minister.

The hard-line-dominated parliament also backed the nomination of Javad Owji, an ex-deputy oil minister and managing director of the state-run gas company, as oil minister.

Raisi's nominee for the Education Ministry was rejected for issues including lack of experience in the subject. The president is now required to make another choice for that post.

Several members of the cabinet are on U.S. or European Union sanctions lists. The president himself is under Western sanctions over allegations of human rights abuses when he was a judge.

Iran has been hit by a severe economic crisis since former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out Washington from a multilateral nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Tehran. The economic hardship has been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tehran has been negotiating with world powers since April to revive the nuclear pact that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting international sanctions.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP