Rouhani Keeps Allies in Key Posts as Tensions With U.S. Grow

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  • President is starting second term after winning May elections
  • Foreign, oil ministers among those to retain portfolios

QuickTake: What’s Next for Iran’s Economy

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani kept top allies in key posts as he presented his proposed cabinet to parliament, unveiling the team he’ll depend on to pursue an agenda being buffeted by escalating tensions with the U.S. and opposition at home.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh were reappointed, as was Abbas Akhoundi, the minister for roads and urban development who oversaw multibillion dollar deals with Boeing Co. and Airbus SE following the sanctions-lifting 2015 nuclear deal. The proposed ministers need to be confirmed by lawmakers, with votes beginning next week.

Zarif and Zanganeh were central “figures for a lot of the business deals and policy discussions that were taking place,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, senior policy fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations. From a foreign policy perspective, it was critical the two men remained, she said.

Rouhani was re-elected in May after promising to continue on the path of engagement with the world and to work to lift remaining U.S. sanctions on Iran -- a tall order as President Donald Trump expands them and threatens to pull out of the accord struck two years ago with world powers. Within Iran, he faces hardliners who opposed the agreement, and other critics disappointed by the slow pace of economic and social change.

The cabinet picks reflect the “balance that Rouhani was trying to achieve between right, left and center as part of his message of outreach and reconciliation,” said Geranmayeh. A more supportive parliament elected last year should mean Rouhani has an easier time getting his team approved than he did in 2013, she said.

— With assistance by Nour Al Ali

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