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Khamenei Quickly Appoints His Trusted Man To Head An Important Council

Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei meeting head of Judiciary Sadeq Amoli Larijani (center), and his deputy, in Tehran, 29 Jun 2016-- Iran

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has appointed Sadeq Amoli Larijani as the new chairman of Iran's Expediency Council, officially known as the Expediency Discernment Assembly.

The appointment on Sunday December 30, announced less than a week after the death of the council's former chief Seyed Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, could have implications in terms of Iran's current domestic political dynamics and Khamenei's succession in the future.

The Supreme Leader also appointed Amoli Larijani as one of the six theologian members of the Guardian Council.

The Islamic Republic's first leader, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, established the Expediency Council in 1988 to be the final arbiter between parliament (Majles) and the Guardian Council; a watchdog that looks into the consistency of Majles ratifications with the Iranian Constitution and Shiite religious rules.

While appointing Larijani to his new position, Khamenei described him as "a prominent member of the Guardian Council" and praised him as a "hardworking and honest [religious] scholar" as the head of Iran's Judiciary.

Larijani's term of office as Judiciary chief ends in August 2019. Rumors in the media and corridors of power in Iran have already named his replacement: Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, one of the five judges that ordered the execution of thousands of political prisoners in late 1980s; as revealed in a tape leaked from the office of late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Ali Montazeri.

Larijani's quick appointment as EC Chief signifies the council's importance for Khamenei and his regime.

Previously, when the former head of the Expediency Council died in 2017, it took Khamenei some eight months before he appointed a replacement. The haste in Larijani's appointment could be because of the country's critical situation after the reimposition of U.S. sanctions and the perceived threat to the regime's existence Khamenei expects in 2019 as he said in mid-December.

Currently the council is tasked with deconflicting between the parliament and Guardian Council's on the bills against money laundering and funding terrorism, which the Majles has approved, but the Guardian Council has rejected. The bill's approval is a requirement by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in order to facilitate Iran's trade with international partners.

Passing the bills is also essential for Europe to activate its measures to help Iran circumvent U.S. sanctions and facilitate banking relations between Tehran and its foreign trade partners.

One of the implications of Sadeq Amoli Larijani's appointment as the head of Expediency Council is that it puts Larijani, one of the individuals considered a potential successor to Khamenei, in a better position for the post. Raisi is also named as a possible contestant for succession.

Meanwhile, after more than a year of chaos at the Expediency Council because of the absence of its former ailing chief, Khamenei once again has his trusted person there to get the right vote at the right time to save him from the embarrassment of occasionally having to make decisions he wouldn't want to be directly associated with.

Although Sadeq Amoli Larijani already was a member of the EC and as such sat in the same session with his arch enemy former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, now the latter might find it hard to be a member of an assembly chaired by Larijani. The resulting dynamic is something to watch in the future.

Sadeq Amoli Larijani, is the brother of Majles Speaker Ali Larijani and Deputy Judiciary Chief Mohammad Javad Larijani. Two of their other brothers are in in diplomatic and academic services. Their father was Ayatollah Mirza Hashem Amoli Larijani a respected cleric in Najaf, Iraq and in Qom.

Expediency Council members include the heads of the three branches of the government, the Guardians Council theologians, chief of the joint staff of the armed forces, secretary of the supreme national security council, as well as some thirty current and former state officials appointed by Khamenei.