Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, left, gives his official seal of approval to newly elected President Ebrahim Raisi in an endorsement ceremony in Tehran, Aug. 3, 2021. (AP)

December 27, 2021

Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric close to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, was elected Iran’s president in one of the country’s most controversial presidential elections held after the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah regime.

Since 1979, Iran has held 13 presidential elections.

Raisi, who started his tenure on August 5th, won elections that attracted the lowest turnout in four decades. The Guardian Council also scrapped the candidacy of the most popular moderate reformists.

As president, the former judge must examine dozens of internal and external crises and tensions that remained unresolved under his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani.

These challenges include reviving the 2015 nuclear agreement when Iran is accelerating its enrichment of uranium.

At his inauguration speech in Parliament, Raisi vowed to prioritize lifting sanctions and improving Iran’s economy.

Regarding foreign policy, he pledged to work on closer relations with China and Russia at a “strategic” level, contrary to the previous administration, which invested in a policy of openness to the West.

Four months into Raisi’s presidency, analysts believe that he has not yet presented a reassuring program that indicates any difference between his conservative-backed government and the previous administration, which enjoyed the support of moderates and reformists.

Compared to Rouhani, Raisi has shown a greater willingness to comply with Khamenei’s recommendations and the general policies of the regime.

Despite Raisi’s pledge to solve regional and internal challenges, history shows that Iran electing new presidents has little to do with the approach and policies of its cleric-led regime.

Analysts believe that the current crisis in Iran is generated by the entire regime rather than by who heads the executive body. Iran is restrained by powerful parallel agencies and institutions that directly answer to Khamenei instead of the country’s president.

Besides, Raisi has no trouble advancing proposals in parliament or the judiciary as conservatives control the country’s top three authorities.

Moreover, the 60-year-old cleric enjoys direct support from Khamenei himself.

Under Raisi, the Iranian regime has acted on its “deterrence” strategy to face existential threats. This strategy includes expanding Iran’s nuclear program to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, supporting different militias across the region, and meddling in the affairs of neighboring countries.

Also, Raisi’s government is expected to deal with internal threats by tightening its security grip on protests that will likely erupt due to worsening living conditions in the country.

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.