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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty

Iran's outgoing nuclear negotiator has been replaced as deputy foreign minister for political affairs by an ultra-hardliner, potentially further complicating efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

The state of play: It's not yet clear whether the new deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri, will play as central a role in nuclear negotiations as his predecessor, Abbas Araghchi. Araghchi was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator since 2013, played a key role in reaching the 2015 deal and comes from the more moderate camp.

  • Bagheri is a leading critic of the 2015 deal and the recent negotiations in Vienna. He previously led nuclear diplomacy under the hardline government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
  • If he is picked to lead the nuclear negotiations, it would be roughly analogous to John Bolton running nuclear talks with Iran. 

The big picture: President Ebrahim Raisi took office in August stating that he was open to resuming nuclear talks with the U.S., but that any understandings reached over the past several months in Vienna were now void.

  • Talks have been frozen since the new hardline government replaced the more moderate administration of Hassan Rouhani. It's not yet clear whether future negotiations will be run out of the Foreign Ministry, as under Rouhani, or the National Security Council.
  • Bagheri was Raisi's representative at the Foreign Ministry during the transition and also Raisi's representative to a government monitoring committee on the nuclear deal.
  • Bagheri is not a fluent English speaker, which complicated the nuclear talks during his previous stint in office.

What's next: There is still no date for resuming indirect nuclear talks between Iran and the U.S. over returning to compliance with the 2015 agreement.

  • The U.S. and its European allies are waiting for Iran to return to the table, and they're warning that the window to strike a deal could close.

Go deeper

Sep 15, 2021 - World

Australia to acquire nuclear submarines in historic security pact with U.S., U.K.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and U.K. will help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines as part of a historic trilateral security partnership announced Wednesday afternoon by the leaders of the three countries.

Why it matters: The partnership, known as AUKUS, is a major strategic pact that will bind the U.S. and U.K. to Australia's security for generations — and a warning to China as the Biden administration continues to lay the groundwork for countering Beijing in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

Sep 16, 2021 - World

U.S. raises ire of China and France with new global pact

President Biden at the White House during a virtual event Wednesday with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (L) and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

China's D.C. embassy said Thursday in response to a new security pact between the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia that the countries should "shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice," per the Australian Associated Press.

Why it matters: The AUKUS partnership is a warning to China's government as the Biden administration moves to counter Beijing in the Indo-Pacific. It's also raised the ire of the French government, after the countries revealed the U.S. and U.K. would help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

The Exvangelicals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Even as evangelicals maintain their position as the most popular religion in the U.S., a movement of self-described "exvangelicals" is breaking away, using social media to engage tens of thousands of former faithful.

The big picture: Donald Trump's presidency, as well as movements around LGBTQ rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, drew more Americans into evangelical churches while also pushing some existing members away.