New leader may adopt a pragmatic policy - GulfToday

New leader may adopt a pragmatic policy

Ebrahim Raisi

Ebrahim Raisi

The victory of Ebrahim Raisi in Iran’s presidential election on Friday is not considered as a surprise. Through the peculiar condition laid down in the 1979 Constitution of the country, the Guardian Council approves the eligible candidates for the contest. This year, the field of presidential contestants was reduced to seven from 600 aspirants and 40 women. Raisi, who had been named the country’s chief justice in 2019 after he lost the race to outgoing president Hasan Rouhani in 2017, is considered a conservative. The observers believe that this could spell a hard time for Iran in its negotiations with the United States over the stringent economic sanctions related to its nuclear programme.

Iran’s nuclear programme remains a complicated issue because Tehran says that it is for peaceful purposes, but there is a strong suspicion in the West, especially in the United States egged on by Israel, that the programme leads to making of nuclear weapons, and that in turn poses a security threat to the Jewish state. President Rouhani had managed to make a deal which allowed for inspection of its nuclear facilities by the United Nations’ Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The deal, which was worked out with the President Barack Obama administration, was dropped by his Republican successor in the White House, Donald Trump. It is to be noted that the Republican Senators at the time the nuclear deal was being worked out had written an open letter to Iran, saying that it would be dropped under a Republican president. According to reports, president designate Raisi despite his image of a rigid conservative is keen to work on the deal now that a Democrat in the White House, Joe Biden, is keen about it as well. There is also the further complication that Raisi is on a scanner allegedly for human rights violations because as a prosecutor he is allegedly held responsible for targeting protesters, many of whom were Leftists as well. The US is likely to bring this up to stall negotiations on the nuclear programme.

Raisi’s greater challenge would be that of grappling with the economic problems. While the sanctions had debilitated the economy in more ways than one, there is the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising unemployment. One of the other contestants in this elections, Abdol Nasser Hemmati, a moderate and a former central bank governor, might have been in a position to grapple with the complexities of the national economy. But Raisi has his own views. He has promised to build houses for the poor. His other main promise is that of curbing corruption. It can be argued that reaching out to the poor and checking corruption by themselves could greatly help in improving the economy.

Ebrahim Raisi is also tipped to become the supreme leader of the country because of his background in religious jurisprudence, which is a prerequisite to occupy the highest position in the country’s political system, and he can even contest for a second presidential term in 2025 if he chooses to do so. But Raisi’s leadership skills will be tested as he will have to steer Iran through a difficult time at home and abroad. Unlike former president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who flaunted his hardline anti-American stance, Raisi is likely to adopt a calibrated stance. Though he will have to live up to his image of a staunch conservative in Iranian politics, it is more likely that he will follow a pragmatic path while in office. The most interesting development in Iran’s foreign relations has been Tehran moving closer to Beijing. The possibility of China-Russia-Iran axis with an anti-American tilt is not to be ruled out.

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