Members of Iranian forces pray around the coffin of slain nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during the burial ceremony at Imamzadeh Saleh shrine in Tehran, on Nov 30, 2020. (Reuters)

By Camelia Entekhabifard

January 1, 2021

The year 2020, with all its challenges, from the coronavirus pandemic and its death tolls to the global economic recession, the disputed US presidential elections to the concerns of the Iranian people about a possible major Iran-US conflict, and bloody suppression of the Iranian people by the regime, has marked a gruesome year for the world and especially for Iranians.

The world will face 2021, with Covid-19 death tolls continuing to rise, despite the development of a vaccine. The disputed US presidential election will continue to be one of the top important world news until the end of January. Experts say the economic turmoil caused by the bankruptcy of global administrative and manufacturing firms and enterprises will take at least two years to recover.

On the other hand, in Iran, the upcoming presidential election will be one of the most interesting and unique polls in the new country’s century (1400 solar calendar). As the most influential and essential country in the Middle East (e.g., geopolitics, politico-military, population and geographical location), Iran’s future elections can generate significant events in the Middle East and the world.

Perhaps to the Iranian people, it no longer matters who the next president will be and voting and participating in the elections of a government that met the smallest demands of its people with bullets, batons, imprisonment and death may seem irrelevant. However, the world is very interested in this election and its outcome. For the West, Russia, China, the United States, and its neighbors, the outcome of the Iranian presidential election and its political future is crucial.

While the Iranian people are anxious about having food on their tables, their security, and avoiding death by the coronavirus, the presidential election is already a hot topic among the regime’s internal politicians.

The United States went through fundamental and radical changes under Trump’s presidency; Iran, following the 2021 elections, will also mature into a country in which the government will face the developments ahead regarding its dialogue with the West or relations with its Arab neighbors with more detailed and organized planning.

After Jan. 20, when Joe Biden sets foot into the White House as the 46th president of the United States, the world will turn its eyes from the US and focus on Tehran, where troops affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards are preparing for their entry into the presidential palace in early summer.

The Iranian government has shown all of its faces to the Iranian people; reformist, moderate and extremist. The only ones missing are the forces close to the Revolutionary Guards and their presence as head of the executive power.

Individuals close to the Revolutionary Guards have formerly held governmental positions. However, this time the far-right is aiming for a candidate fully trusted by the IRGC and the regime’s key authorities to become the next president of the republic.

This decision stems from the urgency and old age of the supreme leader, Khamenei. In the case of his sudden death, the presence of an untrustworthy person as head of the executive power can change and transform the regime’s essence. According to the constitution, in the event of death, dismissal or any misfortune of the supreme leader, the president can assume responsibility for the country until the Assembly of Experts’ meeting. The Revolutionary Guards and the regime’s traditional right-wing will not tolerate that; therefore, this election provides them the opportunity to bring in a trusted person with revolutionary and military insights. That way, if the leader dies in the next four years, the IRGC will attain a vital role in appointing the next leader or changing the constitution.

That person will not necessarily be Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who is much speculated to run for the presidency. Ghalibaf is in a powerful position that can provide the suitable ground to support and elect a candidate approved by the supreme leader and the IRGC; therefore, it is unlikely and unnecessary for him to resign from his post as speaker of parliament to participate in the presidential election.

In the current situation, the extremist, security and military body of the country has both the chief justice (Ebrahim Raeisi) and the head of legislative power (Ghalibaf) in its palm; therefore, the only element left to complete its exercise of authority is the head of the executive power. On the other hand, there is no need for the next president to be a well-known and recognized IRGC figure. However, he will be wisely and prudently chosen so that the regime is not caught off guard again as it was during Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.

Mr. Biden is also the oldest president-elect in the history of the United States. With the controversies circling the outcome of this election, he will have limited chances to settle the dilemmas of the Middle East, and especially Iran, before the end of his four-year term.

The events of this past year – the explosion in Natanz, the assassination of the defense-security official (Mohsen Fakhrizadeh), shooting down the Ukrainian airliner inside Iranian territory, the regime’s coercive approach to popular protests against high prices, the disabled economy and inefficiency of the government – have confirmed how fragile and insecure the system is. People are exasperated by widespread unemployment, inflation and looting of national resources.

The people of a rich country with such a glorious civilization and ancient culture are now bearing witness to the astonishing growth of their small neighboring countries who have not only improved the welfare and livelihood of their citizens but also taken great steps in terms of public and international diplomacy to de-escalate tensions and build a grand coalition in the region. The Iranian regime’s behavior has caused the people to sink into more isolation, despair and widespread poverty.

The theory and appointment of a president with a military background arise from concerns about internal pressures, a desperate population and the narrowing of the Iranian government’s place in the international sphere.

2021 will be the year that Iran reaches the top world news. We should expect important events and developments on domestic and international scales. 2020 was the year of the United States of America, and 2021 will be Iran’s.

Asharq Al-Awsat

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.