(Reuters) - President Hassan Rouhani stood behind one of his highest profile allies in Iran’s moderate faction on Tuesday، holding back from accepting the resignation of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif، which an ally blamed on criticism of the 2015 nuclear deal.
Zarif - a U.S.-educated veteran diplomat who served as the architect of the pact which curbed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief - gave no reason for his decision to quit when he announced it on Instagram on Monday.
But the announcement thrust the schism between Iran’s hardliners and moderates into the open، effectively challenging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to pick a side.
An ally of Zarif said his resignation was motivated by criticism of the nuclear agreement، which has come under increasingly intense fire in Iran since the United States abandoned it last year.
“There were closed-door meetings every week، where top officials were bombarding him with questions about the deal and what will happen next and so on،” a Zarif ally told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “He and his boss (Rouhani) were under a huge amount of pressure.”
Since the United States walked out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions last year، Rouhani has had to explain why Iran has continued to abide by its restrictions while reaping virtually none of the foreseen economic benefits.
Despite announcing his resignation، Zarif had not officially tendered it to Rouhani by Tuesday afternoon and the president had not accepted it.