Iran Replaces Top Security Body Chief After Links to Spying Case

(Bloomberg) -- Iran overhauled the leadership of its top security council, substituting an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps veteran for a reformist appointee linked to an official accused of espionage.

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Ali Akbar Ahmadian, a former commander in the powerful branch of Iran’s military who rose to become head of its joint staff, will replace Ali Shamkhani as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, the government announced in a statement Monday, without giving a reason for the change.

The council decides defense and security policy within guidelines set by the supreme leader. Shamkhani, a rear admiral who commanded the IRGC’s navy, was appointed as the security body’s head in 2013 by former reformist President Hassan Rouhani after political posts as minister of the corps and minister of defense.

Shamkhani has since been appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Expediency Discernment Council, a consultative body that resolves political disputes and advises the supreme leader.

Speculation over the council’s leadership had mounted in January when Iran executed Shamkhani’s former deputy over alleged spying for the UK. But he’s since led major diplomatic efforts to expand ties with Russia and restore relations with Saudi Arabia.

--With assistance from Yasna Haghdoost.

(updates with Shamkhani appointment in fourth paragraph)

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