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

June 28, 2021 | Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh
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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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