Ebrahim Raisi takes over as Iran’s new president

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Ebrahim Raisi

Ebrahim Raisi

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed Ebrahim Raisi as the next president of Iran, who vowed on Tuesday to take steps to lift “the tyrannical sanctions” from the US.

Raisi said he had a comprehensive plan to save the Islamic Republic from its severe economic crisis as well as the spiking health crisis caused by coronavirus.

On Monday, a spokesman for the Iranian Parliament, Seyyed Nezam Al-Din Mousavi, announced that 115 officials from 73 countries would attend Raisi’s inauguration ceremony on Thursday.

In his speech, Khamenei tried to downplay the low voter turnout, bragging about Iran having a more successful and peaceful transfer of power than other countries. He accused foreign enemies of conspiring to keep the voters away from the polling booths but tried to save face by saying that the turnout was nevertheless good enough, considering the difficult circumstances, such as the coronavirus crisis. He also completely ignored the fact that the majority of eligible voters boycotted the election because Khamenei’s own Guardian Council disqualified all Raisi’s serious challengers.

Raisi won the election with over 60% of the vote on June 18, but the election was considered plagued by the disqualification of all significant challengers, including two top officials, an incumbent vice president and a former parliamentary speaker, who were believed to have had a real chance against him.

In 2017, outgoing president Hassan Rouhani handily beat Raisi, though Raisi’s second-place finish and his background as the head of the country’s judiciary and seat on the Assembly of Experts, which appoints the next supreme leader, positioned him well for a retry.

While Tuesday’s ceremony showed Raisi being given authority by Khamenei and focused on top domestic officials of the Islamic Republic, Thursday’s is planned to have more of a global character.

Thursday’s “inauguration ceremony will be attended by 10 presidents, 20 speakers of parliament, 11 foreign ministers, 10 other ministers, envoys of presidents, vice presidents and parliamentary delegations,” Iranian media quoted Mousavi as saying.

He added that the heads and officials of 11 international and regional organizations, the representative of the UN Secretary-General, the President of OPEC and officials from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the European Union, Eurasian Economic Union, Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States, Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and D-8 Organization for Economic Cooperation would also be in attendance.

Israel has slammed the EU for sending a representative to the ceremony that is taking place less than a week after a British and a Romanian national were killed in a drone strike on an Israel-operated oil tanker in the Arabian sea for which Tehran has been blamed.

In addition, some countries have imposed sanctions or criminal proceedings against Raisi for his role in mass executions of his own people in the 1980s.

Despite Thursday’s introduction of Raisi to the world, in many ways the ceremony on Tuesday is the more important, given that Khamenei has the final word for all matters.

The new Iranian president has thrown the nuclear negotiations for a return to the 2015 JCPOA deal off course. For most of April and May, it seemed that Iran, the US and the world powers were progressing toward an almost inevitable deal, with the only question being whether the timing would be before or after the June 18 presidential election. Raisi even expressed grudging support for a return to the deal before he was confirmed in the election.

But since he won the election, all messages coming from Iran, especially from Khamenei, have portrayed a much harder line, seeking concessions from the US which would bar it from snapping back sanctions in the future, and essentially cutting off any attempt to make the deal “longer and stronger,” as Washington has vowed to do.

In recent days, Iranian media has also focused on Raisi’s religious credentials, likely building him up as a potential successor to the 82-year-old Khamenei who has had significant health issues in recent years.

“Representatives and prominent figures of different religions and sects of the world were also invited. Important cultural and social figures of the Islamic world will also be present and these figures will arrive in Tehran in the coming days,” Mousavi told Iranian media.

Iran is a theocracy run by ayatollahs and for Raisi to inherit the supreme leader role from Khamenei he would have to gain more clout a religious expert. The Iranian website Mehr did an extended feature on Raisi on June 30 proposing greater cooperation between the Abrahamic faiths and it cited his religious credentials and said he would be a powerful proponent for such an issue when combined with his new presidential role.

At the same time, some of the religious prominence can be a smokescreen as Khamenei himself achieved the role of supreme leader despite several major religious figures competed against him who were seen as being much greater experts in religion.

Even the Mehr article about cooperating with Abrahamic faiths appeared mostly based on a meeting between Raisi and a Vatican official on July 21, with a Raisi spokesman trying it try to influence a split between the Vatican and other Western powers.

According to the Mehr article, Raisi’s proposal seemed mostly aimed at getting the Vatican to support Iran’s narratives against Israel, the Saudis, Sunnis in Yemen and Christian-American evangelists over battles Tehran has fomented in the region.

Source » jpost

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