Salehi kept as Iran nuclear chief 

August 12, 2017

TEHRAN – In a decree on Thursday, President Hassan Rouhani kept Ali Akbar Salehi as nuclear chief in his new cabinet.

“In compliance with Article 124 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and in view of commitment, scientific background, successful administrative management, and precious efforts in the nuclear agreement, I appoint you (Salehi) as vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization,” the decree said. 

Salehi has been in the post since 2013 after serving as foreign minister under the Ahmadinejad administration. 

Born in Karbala in 1949, the Iraqi city holy to Shiite Muslims, he grew up speaking Arabic. When he was 9, his family moved to Iran. Salehi also speaks English fluently. 

With his doctorate in nuclear physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, awarded in the 1970s, Salehi has played key roles in clarifying the true nature of Iran's nuclear program. 

In 1997, he became the international face of Tehran's nuclear program when he was appointed ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations' nuclear watchdog.

In that post he had to defend Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear technology against hostile countries that claimed Tehran was seeking nuclear weapons. 

As nuclear envoy, Salehi earned respect among diplomats, many of whom harbored suspicions about Iran's true nuclear aims, but valued his reasonable approach and professionalism.

Salehi has also served as an under-secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, a regional grouping where his fluent Arabic was an asset.

Salehi was uniquely consequential in 2015 as he and American Ernest Moniz joined the Geneva Iran and P5+1 nuclear talks to discuss more about technical aspects of Iran’s nuclear program. 

President Hassan Rouhani awarded the “Medal of Merit” to Salehi for the signature achievement in 2016.

“I will take the full responsibility for technical aspects of the nuclear deal,” Salehi has said repeatedly in response to opponents of the deal in Iran.   

In a recent speech, Salehi talked of a “Trumpist bottleneck” ahead, saying it is hardly predictable to say what happens to the nuclear deal under the Trump administration. 


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