Iran’s New President Won’t Make Any Concessions When It Comes to Nuclear Weapons

June 28 2021

On June 19, Ebrahim Raisi emerged as the winner of the Islamic Republic’s presidential election. In his life-long career in the service of the clerical regime, Raisi has distinguished himself as an enforcer, making his bones sending people to firing squads during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, sentencing hundreds if not thousands to death in 1988, and supervising the jailing and assassination of dissidents in the 1990s. Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh comment on the significance of his victory:

[W]ith half the electorate staying home and approximately 3.7 million Iranians turning in blank or protest ballots, . . . [the] election, if you can even call it that, was really all about who will succeed the eighty-two-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the rahbar [or supreme leader], the overlord of Iran’s theocracy. Khamenei has long eyed Raisi as his successor, and his promotion to the presidency presages his ultimate ascension [to the position of supreme leader]. After the protest movements of 2017-2020, when even the poor started taking to the streets to express their anger, an elderly supreme leader likely wanted to see a version of himself in the presidency—a cleric with a proven capacity to repress and liquidate those willing to challenge the theocracy.

These developments, write Gerecht and Takeyh, will affect the ongoing diplomatic attempts to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement:

The talks in Vienna will likely succeed and both parties will resume their compliance with an accord whose key provisions are rapidly expiring. The White House insists that once the agreement is revived, it will seek to remedy its deficiencies with additional discussions that will extend the deal’s timelines and even address Iran’s malign regional activities and its ever-improving ballistic missiles. Raisi has made it clear, however, that he won’t concede to any additional agreements.

Repression at home and imperialism abroad remain the regime’s essential priorities. Such ambitions require Shiite proxy forces across the region, missile deployments, and the ultimate strategic weapon. The notion of trading carrots and sticks is abhorrent to a man who abjures compromise with enemies both near and abroad.

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Read more at Washington Post

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy