Iran’s new president presented a cabinet dominated by hardliners on Wednesday, state TV reported, among them a foreign minister known for close ties to Hezbollah and an interior minister wanted by Interpol over his alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires.
The conservative cleric and former judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi nominated hardline career diplomat Hossein Amirabdollahian to the crucial post of foreign minister as Iran and the US seek to resuscitate Tehran’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
Amirabdollahian, 56, has served in a range of administrations over the decades. He was deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs under former populist hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known in the West for his Holocaust denial and disputed reelection in 2009.
According to Reuters, Amirabdollahian is an avowed anti-Westerner believed to have close relations with the Hezbollah terrorist group in Lebanon as well as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards force.
The parties to the nuclear accord have met in Vienna for months to try to revive the deal. The last round of talks ended in June with no date set for their resumption. Raisi has promised that his administration will focus on lifting sanctions that have clobbered Iran’s already ailing economy.
Raisi also appointed Gen. Ahmad Vahidi — a former defense minister blacklisted by the US in 2010 — as his interior minister. He was the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, its international operations arm, at the time of the bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center in Argentina’s capital. His name appeared on an Interpol “red notice” list regarding the attack on the AMIA building.
The 1994 AMIA (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) bombing, carried out by a Lebanese suicide bomber who drove a car bomb at the multistory building, killed 85 people and wounded hundreds. The bomber was subsequently identified as Ibrahim Hussein Berro, an operative of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror group, and he was allegedly assisted by other Hezbollah and Iranian operatives.
Families of the victims of the bombing renewed their demands for justice as they marked the anniversary of the attack last month, angry that no one has ever been convicted.
The Iranian cabinet list, which offered few surprises, must still be confirmed by he country’s parliament. The supreme leader also typically weighs in on picking officials for the most sensitive positions, such as foreign minister.
Javad Owji, 54, a longtime official in the country’s vital oil and gas sector, was nominated as oil minister. Raisi picked Rostam Ghasemi, a former oil minister under Ahmadinejad, as the minister for roads and urbanization. The list named Gen. Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, a former deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, as defense minister.