Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani (R) with Saudi National Security Advisor Musaad bin Mohammed Al-Aiban (L) and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, Beijing, March 10, 2023
UPDATE, MAY 23:
Removed from his post on Monday, Ali Shamkhani has been given the consolation of a position on the Expediency Council and the label of “political advisor” to the Supreme Leader.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Iran’s regime has dismissed the long-time Secretary of the National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, amid protracted in-fighting in Tehran.
Shamkhani had held the post since September 2013, but had been under increasing pressure from rivals, including the leadership of the Republican Guards.
Nour News, affiliated with the Supreme National Security Council, framed Shamkhani’s departure as a “resignation”.
The announcement folowed a tweet by Shamkhani in which he cryptically quoted a verse by the 16th-century Iranian poet Muhtasham Kashani. Nour News said the “meaningful poem” showed Shamkhanki’s departure from his position was “definite”.
Other Iranian outlets including Fars News, the channel of the Republican Guards, quickly followed.
Ali Akbar Ahmadian, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Strategic Studies Center and a former commander of its naval forces, was quickly named as Shamkhani’s replacement.
The Downfall of a Regime Stalwart
In January, the regime executed Ali Akbari, who had served as Deputy Defense Minister under Shamkhani from 1999 to 2003 and who had remained a close ally after his departure from Government service in 2008.
The hanging of Akbari, the accusation that he was a long-time spy for the UK, was seen by many analysts as a political blow dealt to Shamkhani by those who wanted to weaken or remove him from office.
Shamkhani’s removal had been rumored last November, as nationwide protests escalated, and again after Akbari’s execution.
Hardline politicians asked President Raisi to remove Shamkhani and other senior officials as “leftovers” from the presidency of Hassan Rouhani between 2013 and 2021. Abdul Hossein Khosrupanah, the Secretary of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, was soon replaced.
Shamkhani had been central in Iran’s diplomatic and political initiatives, amid the country’s long-standing economic problems. Tehran has recently restored relations with Saudi Arabia after a seven-year break, tried to rebuild ties with other Gulf States, and supported the Assad regime — propped up by Tehran through the deadly 12-year repression of Syria’s civilians — as it was readmitted to the Arab League.
But there has been no progress on renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal after Iran stalled talks in spring 2022, leaving US-led sanctions in place. Shamkhani, perceived as a pragmatist, has been increasingly criticized by hardliners for maintaining any commitment to the discussions.
Shamkhani remained loyal in public to the regime despite the attacks he faced. In his last speech, he pointed to Iranian leadership in a changing global order.
A new world order at first would mean a disruption of the current order and disorder on the back of the evolution of the current order, but this is not inherently positive.
Our readiness and role in the new world order is what can make its changes positive for us.
He also discussed the so-called “axis of resistance” of forces that are supported by Iran across the region, saying: “The current circumstances can turn out to be in favour of the axis of resistance, but we must not turn the doctrine of resistance into a doctrine of domination