Who Was Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian?


Hossein Amir Abdollahian was picked to be Iran’s foreign minister in 2021 by the president, Ebrahim Raisi, during a volatile time for Iran’s regional ties and for its relationship with the West.

Mr. Amir Abdollahian was a career diplomat and, like Mr. Raisi, a hard-liner. The two men died in a helicopter crash on Sunday in a mountainous region of northwestern Iran. Considered closely aligned with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Mr. Amir Abdollahian was also believed to have had a close relationship with Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the powerful leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, whom the U.S. killed in a drone strike in 2020.

Born in 1964, Mr. Amir Abdollahian held a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Tehran, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

He was fluent in Arabic and his diplomatic experience focused on Iran’s relationships in the Middle East. He spent five years as deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs from 2011 to 2016 and three years as Iran’s ambassador to Bahrain from 2007 to 2010.

His tenure as foreign minister was starkly different to that of his predecessor, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the moderate, American-educated diplomat who helped broker the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers including the United States. Mr. Zarif made that deal in close collaboration with John F. Kerry, who served as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, and he was later heard on a leaked audiotape discussing a rivalry with General Suleimani.

After he was confirmed as foreign minister in 2021, Mr. Amir Abdollahian emphasized that Iran’s relationships with its neighbors would be a top priority, and he quickly took a tougher stance against the United States in talks about reviving the nuclear deal, which former President Donald J. Trump had abandoned.

Mr. Amir Abdollahian was also a key figure in the spillover from the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks, which prompted Israel to go to war in Gaza. Iran backs several armed groups in the Middle East, including Hamas, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. Mr. Amir Abdollahian had been vocal about the threat of a broader conflict for months before Iran’s shadow war with Israel burst into the open in April, when Israel killed senior military leaders in a strike on an Iranian embassy complex in Syria and Iran fired a volley of drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation.

Mr. Amir Abdollahian repeatedly condemned the United States for backing Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. In an interview with The New York Times in November, he said, “If the U.S. continues its military, political and financial support of Israel and helps manage Israel’s military attacks on Palestinian civilians, then it must face its consequences.”

Mr. Amir Abdollahian’s deputy for political affairs, Ali Bagheri Kani, who on Monday was named “caretaker” of the Foreign Ministry, has been leading the Iranian delegations that have secretly and indirectly negotiated with the United States in Oman on at least three occasions over the past year. The talks addressed the Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, the targeting of U.S. military personnel in Iraq and Syria by Iran’s proxies, and a cease-fire in Gaza.

Farnaz Fassihi contributed reporting.



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