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News > Iran

Iran’s New Cabinet Designed to Confront COVID-19, US Sanctions

  • A supermarket in Teheran, Iran.

    A supermarket in Teheran, Iran. | Photo: Twitter/ @edrormba

Published 26 August 2021

The new administration seeks to revive the national economy and improve the people's livelihood, especially that of low-income groups.

Iranian lawmakers on Wednesday gave votes of confidence to 18 out of 19 ministers proposed by President Ebrahim Raisi, as Iranians hope that the new ministers may successfully tackle the challenges facing the country.


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The process of parliamentary discussion on the qualifications of the proposed Iranian cabinet members started on Saturday. "We know that the time for service is short and the pains and problems of the people are numerous," said Raisi at the kick-off session.


Raisi set the containment of the COVID-19 pandemic as his government's top priority, and announced "confirmed" plans to import 30 million doses of vaccines against the coronavirus. With a population of over 80 million, Iran is still struggling with a lethal fifth peak in the pandemic, as projects for domestic production of locally-developed vaccines have failed to make the progress initially predicted.

Bahram Einollahi, a 63-year-old optometrist with years of experience in the health ministry, became the new health minister with 214 yes votes. In a speech aimed at gaining the parliament's confidence on Monday, he admitted domestic production will not meet the needs of the country, but promised that his team will complete the vaccination campaign by February 2022.

The second priority of the new administration is to revive Iran's struggling economy and improve the people's livelihood, especially that of low-income groups. Iran's economy has suffered long, but the situation has become even more dire since Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement in 2018, making Iran a target of Washington's "maximum pressure" policy of sanctions.

With most oil export revenues deprived, the Iranian government has a huge budget deficit, equivalent of around 35 percent of its budget.

In this context, the volume of money in circulation has increased more than 40 percent in the past year, and the year-to-year inflation rate is estimated by the same official source at 44.2 percent. Iran's Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare published a report on Sunday saying about one third of Iranians are living in poverty.


Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Iran's new foreign minister, vowed to focus on "neutralizing" the U.S. sanctions, in parallel with negotiations to have them lifted.

"We will never run away from a reasonable negotiation table where there is authority and wisdom, but we will not tie the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the 2015 nuclear agreement," he said, warning that he will not waste time in "erosive talks" or negotiations that fail to serve the Iranian people's interests.

U.S. President Joe Biden said before his election that he would return to the nuclear agreement, but has kept the sanctions on Iran, while the six rounds of international talks in Vienna between April and June also failed to revitalize the deal. Amir Abdollahian said he would focus on expanding ties with neighboring and Asian countries and clarifying the situation regarding the nuclear agreement.

Iran's diplomacy must be based on economic issues. To this effect, Amir Abdollahian intends to introduce structural reforms in the Foreign Ministry in order to boost its economic functions, including through the presence of economic advisers in Iran's embassies.

Amir Abdollahian is a former deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs with experience as the head of direct negotiations with U.S. delegates in Iraq in 2007. Known for having extensive connections in Iran's "Axis of Resistance" regional network of alliances, the new foreign minister is seen as less of an ideologue than other candidates. Yet, political commentators have voiced skepticism regarding Iran's ability to expand its foreign commercial ties if the U.S. unilateral sanctions are not lifted.


Iran's new Economy Minister Ehsan Khandouzi, a 41-year-old PhD in economics and an economic researcher at Iran's parliament before his new post, also got the chamber's confidence vote with ease, partially because he is well-connected in parliament and his theoretical credentials have been widely praised.

He stressed the need to reform and strengthen the Ministry of Economy's structures and its role in the government's general scheme, since the United States is waging a "war" against Iran on the economic front. In the short term, the ministry's top priority will be "contributing to macroeconomic stability and a sustainable control of inflation."

Khandouzi pointed to his intention to expand economic ties abroad, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade. He highlighted the efforts to facilitate a comprehensive cooperation plan with China, the International North-South Transport Corridor project partnered with Russia, and the "restoration of strategic economic ties with Turkey, India, and other Asian and regional partners."

Additionally, Seyyed Reza Fatemi Amin won 205 votes of confidence to become next Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade. He has plans to increase Iran's exports by US$5 billion in this year through the activation of trade capabilities with neighboring countries. He also intends to focus the ministry's development projects on the sectors of electricity, electronics, equipment, industrial machinery and vehicles, which have the potential to create jobs for Iranians. He will improve Iran's business environment by eliminating regulations, and better monitor the supply chain to identify profitable market opportunities.

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