A 36-year-old electrical engineer, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, is the youngest minister in President Hassan Rohani’s second-term cabinet and the first minister in the Islamic Republic to be born after the 1979 revolution. He is now the minister for information and communications technology (ICT).
Prior to this post, he was deputy minister and chaired the Telecommunications Infrastructure Company (TIC) board from early 2016 after being appointed as a member in 2014. At the same time, he acted as a non-executive board member of Rightel which is the third-largest mobile operator in Iran.
Furthermore, from 2009 to 2014 he served as general manager of communications systems security at the Communication Regulatory Authority (CRA).
As such, Azari Jahromi is very familiar with issues related to the telecommunications sector, which is broadly dominated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
During the August ministerial confirmation process by the Majles (parliament), it was revealed that Azari Jahromi had been a deputy minister of intelligence prior to 2009. That was refuted by a number of sources, however, and considering his age it is likely that he had only an operational role in that ministry.
Even though he must have been vetted by the intelligence apparatus, it is interesting that in his previous positions he put significant effort into implementing faster, cheaper, and more widespread Internet access across the country, clashing strongly with the hard-line policy of censorship or filtering.
Azari Jahromi has also publicly supported the lifting of filters on Twitter, YouTube, and Blogger in Iranian universities.
He has announced that the ICT ministry will directly negotiate with the various social media platforms to familiarise them with Iranian concerns in order to remove current restrictions.
In plans that he presented to the Majles, he voiced support for IT and ICT start-ups as a new platform for job creation for the young and educated population. He also noted the intention to boost technological advances in the ICT sector and to introduce sophisticated telecommunications technologies across sectors.
As well, he addressed the crucial issue of protecting intellectual property in cyberspace – a legal bottleneck that has been hindering the development of online commerce in Iran.
On 20 August, the Majles gave him its vote of confidence, with 152 for, 120 against, 7 abstentions, and 9 invalid votes.
Azari Jahromi has the full backing of the previous ICT minister, Mahmoud Vaezi, who is now chief of staff and who ran into problems with the IRGC for trying to liberalise the telecom sector.
Azari Jahromi, who has operated within the intricate intelligence apparatus, is better positioned to manage the complexities of the telecom sector than Vaezi was. He has already impressed political observers by introducing a new human resource management approach within the ministry that focuses on expertise as opposed to ideological preferences.