Iranian VP resigns

The official Iranian news media reports today that the Vice-President of Iran, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, resigned three weeks ago.  The man originally appointed by Mohammed Khatami – who has joined protesters in defying the mullahs over the results of the presidential election — also served as head of Iran’s nuclear program, which the BBC considers more significant:

The head of Iran’s nuclear organisation, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, has resigned, according to the ISNA news agency.

The report said the nuclear chief had submitted a letter of resignation to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad nearly three weeks ago. …

Mr Aghazadeh also stepped down as the country’s vice-president, ISNA reported.

The BBC says that the reasons for Aghazadeh’s resignation were “unclear.”  I’d say it was crystal clear, especially given the timing — and the Iranian government’s decision to keep it quiet.  Three weeks ago, Iranians were in the streets protesting the rigged election that put Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back into office as president.  A resignation by Aghazadeh during this period from both offices intended to send a message of rejection to the ruling mullahs of the Guardian Council and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

In fact, the BBC gets this story upside-down.  The impact of his resignation on Iranian politics won’t come from quitting the nuclear agency, but from refusing to participate in Ahmadinejad’s illegitimate presidency after the rigged election as his VP.  As a protege of Khatami, Aghazadeh provided the mullahs with a fig leaf of “reform” (to the extent that Khatami represented real reform before the election uprising, which was not much at all).  His sudden and “unclear” departure marginalizes the mullahs even further.

Aghazadeh’s resignation from the nuclear agency may have the short-term effect of derailing an access strategy for the West on talks over nuclear weapons.  The mullahs will find a hard-liner to replace Aghazadeh, assuming they survive the unrest in Iran in the long term.  At any rate, that position served as little more than the mouthpiece of Khamenei anyway, which makes Aghazadeh’s departure there much less interesting than his departure from the vice-presidency and Ahmadinejad’s regime.