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.

Read more at Washington Post

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


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy