A new security chief has taken charge in Iran after almost 10 years, a change that analysts say could have implications for its key foreign policy issues and shows the growing clout of conservative factions in the country’s power structure.

Ali Akbar Ahmadian, a high-ranking officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), succeeded Ali Shamkhani as the head of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) on Monday.

As the new security chief, Ahmadian also became one of the two envoys of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the SNSC, which is responsible for Iran’s foreign and national security policies. The other envoy is Saeed Jalili, who led the SNSC from 2007 to 2013 and is known for his hardline views against the West and his opposition to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Ahmadian assumed leadership of the council at a time of intense diplomatic activity in the region and uncertainty over the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the nuclear deal.

Shamkhani, an Arab Iranian and the only recipient of Saudi Arabia’s highest award, the Order of Abdulaziz medal, negotiated a deal in March to resume diplomatic ties between Tehran and Iran after a seven-year break with China’s mediation.

He also oversaw indirect talks with US President Joe Biden’s administration since 2021 to revive the JCPOA. The deal was scrapped in 2018 by former US President Donald Trump, who imposed harsh sanctions on Iran.

Shamkhani’s exit had been speculated for a long time, especially after his former close associate Alireza Akbar was put to death earlier this year for working as a spy for British intelligence.

As a loyal supporter of the supreme leader’s policies, Ahmadian’s appointment could signal the direction of Iran’s security and foreign policy issues, said Hossein Kanani Moghaddam, a conservative politician and analyst based in Tehran.

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