The problems that the new President of Iran will cause for Biden

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Tipping points in assets opaque, authoritarian regimes are often predicted but never predictable. The manipulated The “election” of Ebrahim Raisi, an uncharismatic, 60-year-old hardliner cleric, as the next President of Iran has the potential to become such a moment, although its significance is only fully understood in retrospect. Will Raisi’s anointing be remembered there something Historians claim as a brazen authoritarian assault that destroyed the Islamic Republic’s remaining legitimacy and hastened its downfall? Or will it be just another milestone in the life cycle of a theocracy that defies predictions of reform and collapse and possibly paves the way for Raisi to succeed his benefactor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is 82, as Iran’s next supreme leader?

For the United States, Raisi’s election, viewed through the prism of the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, reinforces the sense of urgency of the Biden government to reach an agreement before an inevitably tougher Iranian government is installed on August 8 in the hands of the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guard will further complicate Raisi’s presidency of the Biden government’s stated goal of negotiating a “longer and stronger” follow-up agreement with Tehran.

However, for many Middle Eastern residents, Raisi’s choice is important for reasons beyond its impact on Tehran’s nuclear program. After September 11, 2001, scholars and policymakers debated whether the road to peace in the Middle East led through Jerusalem or Baghdad. Today, it is clear to many liberals in the Middle East that the politics of Tehran are inextricably linked with the politics of Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Sanaa and beyond. Although the malaise of the modern Middle East has many fathers, as long as Iran, one of the largest and richest nations in the region, is ruled by a theocracy that actively uses its considerable energy revenues to fund and train armed militias that support their intolerant revolutionary ideology represented, a more stable, tolerant and prosperous region will remain a distant dream.

R.aisi’s reticent personality and criminal record bring Hannah Arendt’s observation of the banality of evil to life. He has been a national figure in Iran since 2017, when he ran against incumbent President Hassan Rouhani in the country’s presidential election and lost by a two-to-one lead. Although the state media has wrongly awarded him the prestigious title of ayatollah – a high-ranking Shiite scholar – his most important qualification is a trustworthy acolyte of Khamenei, who made him head of the country’s largest religious foundation and later head of the judiciary.

For many Iranians, Raisi is best known for his actions as one of the four judges who oversaw the torture and crowds execution by about 5,000 members of an Iranian opposition group – including Women and children– in the summer of 1988. Like a gang recruit who makes money through willful violence, Raisi, a 28-year-old hanging judge, cemented his revolutionary reputation.

Raisi argues that he was simply following orders and does not seem to apologize and forget about the heartbreak he caused. An elderly couple I interviewed in Tehran years ago tearfully told me how they were forced to pay for the bullet that was used to execute their daughter – a 21-year-old medical student – to recover her body and one proper funeral. (Such “Margin fees“Have increased to as much as $ 3,000 in recent years.)

In contrast to previous elections, when Iran presented its tightly controlled election campaign to the global media, the few foreign journalists who visited Tehran this time reported a combination of apathy and anger. Perhaps the most authentic expression of Iranian popular armament known to anyone who has lived in Iran was accidental broadcast by NPR, whose reporter asked an elderly woman in a Tehran park who she favored. The NPR translator tempered her comments, claiming that she said of the mullahs, “You can go to hell.” Persian speakers heard something much more obscene: “Fuck these mullahs. You’ve been lying to us for 40 years! I vote for my tail. “

D.despite the media fanfare During the Iranian elections, like all Iranian presidents, Raisi will play a negligible role in shaping the country’s foreign policy. Under Khamenei’s leadership, the Islamic Republic’s identity will continue to be based on opposition to America and Israel, and Tehran will continue to arm and fund its proxies and allies in the failing states – including Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Venezuela – which form its so-called axis of resistance .

The main benefactors of Raisi’s election will be the external opponents of the Iranian regime and the Iranian nuclear deal, most notably the Republican Party and the government of Israel. The topics of conversation write themselves. “Iran’s New President” tweeted Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, known as the Butcher of Tehran, is an extremist responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iranians. He is committed to the regime’s nuclear ambitions and its global terror campaign. “

Still, it seems unlikely that Raisi’s election would seriously jeopardize the Biden administration’s ability to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, which Donald Trump pulled out of in 2018. Since Iran’s economic decline cannot be reversed without lifting US sanctions, it would make sense – although this is not a foregone conclusion – for Tehran to revive the deal before Raisi’s inauguration on Aug. 8. This would allow the regime to hold outgoing President Rouhani responsible for the shortcomings in the deal, while Raisi could reap the economic benefits of easing sanctions.

Beyond a return to the 2015 agreement, however, Raisi’s selection signals that Iran will oppose the Biden government’s wish to negotiate a follow-up agreement, and also addresses Tehran’s missile program and regional ambitions. This could puzzle Biden: If the US tries to force Iran with new sanctions, Tehran could react by resuming its nuclear activities and – through its proxies – attacking US interests and allies in the Middle East, considering that the Biden administration is trying to reduce America’s regional presence.

HUbris is the Achilles heel practically all dictatorships; the iron will that once promoted the consolidation of power in an authoritarian regime inevitably turns into greed and pretension. Although Khamenei’s will to stay in power remains strong, he is plagued by a combination of insecurity and overconfidence: he was aware enough that his successor had no chance of winning a competitive election, but he was confident enough to believe that he could get away with engineering his victory.

Khamenei’s health – he’s 82 and widely believed prostate Cancer — one of Iran’s most closely guarded state secrets, but it has outlived younger men who were once believed to be its successors. Although Khamenei wants Raisi to succeed him, transfers of power in authoritarian states are inherently unpredictable. Raisi’s already limited popularity – as evidenced by record-low voters turn out– is likely to continue to decline when he takes office and is blamed for a broken economy that he cannot fix and political and social repression that he will intensify.

One of the keys to Khamenei’s longevity – he has ruled since 1989 – is his ability to use Iran’s unelected institutions to strengthen his power while using Iran’s “elected” institutions to evade accountability. He can outsource political repression and raids to the Revolutionary Guards and at the same time hold the Iranian president responsible for the country’s ailing economy. But the choice of his mentees Raisi will make it difficult for Khamenei to continue scapegoating the Iranian president for his own failure.

Another unknown is whether the Revolutionary Guards – who long ago eclipsed the clergy as Iran’s most powerful institution – will continue to leave aging clerics to be their commanders in chief, or whether they seek more open control. Given the young and growing Iran irreligious Polis, an Iranian version of Vladimir Putin – a military or intelligence officer who replaces Shiite nationalism with Persian nationalism – appears to rule future Iranian generations more than any other geriatric cleric.

“The essence of oligarchic rule,” wrote George Orwell in 1984, “is the persistence of a particular worldview and way of life imposed on the living by the dead. A ruling group is a ruling group as long as it can appoint its successor. ”Today’s Iranians live in the theocratic experiment of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of the 1979 revolution, who believed that Islam was a panacea and that the economy was“ for donkeys “. Just as Khamenei was chosen to be the guardian of Khomeini’s vision, he sees in Raisi a trustworthy disciple wearing Khomeini’s cloak.

Every decade a new generation of disaffected Iranians comes to the conclusion that the Islamic Republic cannot be reformed through the ballot box. Instead of staying behind and risking their lives as dissidents, those who can afford to go are choosing to leave. The former Iranian Minister of Science and Technology once appreciated that Brain drain costs the country $ 150 billion annually – more than its oil revenue. Raisi’s election is a reminder that Iranian aspirations for a better life are at odds with a regime that currently appears unreformable and unbreakable. As long as the Iranian security forces are united and ready to kill en masse, and Iranian society is divided and unwilling to die en masse, the turning points will continue to tip in favor of the regime.





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