An Iranian official took over the post of secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council after longtime incumbent Ali Shamkhani stepped down, state media reported.
President Ebrahim Raisi issued a decree replacing Shamkhani with a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC), Ali Akbar Ahmadian, media reports said on May 22. They did not offer any explanation for the change.
Reuters news agency quoted an “Iranian insider” as saying that the change in leadership at the council, the highest-level body to deal with security matters under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, was unlikely to have an impact on its policies and that Shamkhani might be considered for a "more important position."
Shamkhani, a long-time ally of Khamenei, was appointed the secretary of the security council in 2013. He has faced persistent corruption allegations, which he denied, as well as scrutiny because of close ties with a British-Iranian man hanged on spying charges earlier this year in Iran.
Shamkhani was a key player in negotiations that paved the way to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. He was also in office during the years of tensions that followed then-President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the accord in 2018. Earlier this year, Shamkhani was on hand for the announced détente between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
He also served as defense minister under two-term reformist President Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005
Ahmadian, Shamkhani’s replacement at the helm of the Supreme National Security Council, served as chief of the IRGC Joint Staff in the 2000s and later as head of the paramilitary force’s strategic center.
He will take over as Iran faces continued economic pressure from Western sanctions, challenges following monthslong anti-government protests and the recent de-escalation with Saudi Arabia and Iran’s other Persian Gulf neighbors.