As Iran has barely begun preparations for the June 28 presidential vote, some sources have reported that the nuclear negotiations have been entrusted to Ali Shamkhani, a veteran insider and advisor to Ali Khamenei.

These unofficial reports seem to be close to reality, given the ambiguous response from the Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Monday.

At this stage it is difficult to judge the significance and purpose of this move. It could be an attempt by Khamenei to delegate the talks to an experienced deal maker, not knowing what the elections will bring, or a sign of a possible intention to achieve some progress.

Tabnak news website in Tehran has claimed that Shamkhani was actually put in charge of the talks approximately two months ago. The website speculated that leaking the news now might be a signal of serious talks. However, an analyst suggested to Iran International that either Shamkhani or his associates are now leaking this information ahead of the presidential election possibly to enhance Shamkhani’s stature as a possible presidential candidate.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani responded to a reporter's question about the unofficial reports about Shamkhani’s alleged appointment, stating, "I have no specific comment on this matter.” He immediately added that Tehran’s negotiating team has advanced the negotiations in coordination with and under the supervision of the high-ranking institutions of the regime, “and all capacities within the governance framework have been utilized in this context."

Many domestic media outlets have interpreted the ambiguous response from the Foreign Ministry spokesperson as a tacit confirmation of the matter.

Some media have viewed this change as a reaction to the death of Ebrahim Raisi and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in the helicopter accident, as a force majeure to deal with the vacuum.

Yesterday, Hadi Mohammadi, an Iranian journalist wrote in a post on the X platform that the responsibility for the nuclear negotiations has been handed over to Shamkhani.

The Guardian also reported this news, stating that Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, is attempting to negotiate improved access to Iran's nuclear sites. However, this process has slowed down due to Raisi's death. The significance of this matter is underscored by the fact that nuclear negotiations have been entrusted to Khamenei's advisor, Shamkhani.

In March 2023, Iranian and Saudi Arabian media reported that the two countries had agreed to resume bilateral relations during Shamkhani's trip to Beijing. This development highlighted his lobbying skills, influence, and Khamenei's trust in him.

The agreement with Saudi Arabia was considered unprecedented because it was signed by Shamkhani, which, according to observers, bypassed the Foreign Ministry and sidelined Amir-Abdollahian.

In the spring of 2023, Khamenei appointed Shamkhani as a member of the Expediency Discernment Council and his political advisor, after removing him as the head of the Supreme National Security Council.

In an exclusive report in June 2023, Iran International revealed that the former Secretary of the National Security Council had to resign following the disclosure of his role as a key member of the government circle connected to Naji Sharifi Zindashti, a cartel involved in kidnapping and drug trafficking in collaboration with the IRGC.

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