Iranian election does not change the fact that the West is in a catch-22 situation
Yet over the same period, Iran’s “shadow government” has only grown in size, influence and complexity. This “deep state”, made up of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and elements loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has become the tool of last resort to suppress a seemingly growing protest movement and tighten grip. regime over the Islamic Republic, where general strikes and civil disobedience have become annual events.
Neither outright conservatism nor piecemeal moderate policies have succeeded in absorbing the shocks of a plummeting, sanctions-riddled economy, or in preventing the Iranian rial from losing up to 80% of its value. , not to mention reducing unemployment, which has reached record levels. It’s no surprise that for most Iranians, the top priority is restoring the economy, which has shown no growth for the past four years.
Such a transformation will only be possible if US sanctions on the oil and banking sectors are lifted. This would be conditional on Tehran’s return in full compliance with the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal.
Khamenei deep state is eager to strike a deal by August, before the new president takes office, to possibly link the achievement of sanctions relief and expected improvements in economic conditions to what will be. likely a conservative presidency under the Guardian Council’s preferred candidate, Ebrahim Raisi. , Iranian chief judge and close associate of Khamenei.
Of the more than 500 presidential candidates, only two notable figures clearly stood out in an election that most observers derisively described as a mere selection process by a panel of unelected lawyers and academics. .
At first glance, the election appears to have been designed to secure Raisi’s victory, given that the other approved candidates had much less public notoriety and support than a front-runner who has close ties to the IRGC and is largely considered a potential successor. to the supreme leader.
However, Iranian elections can be unpredictable. A record turnout would certainly help Abdolnaser Hemmati, former central bank governor and leading reformist candidate, especially if moderates defy expectations and boycott calls for the elections.
On the flip side, a victory for Raisi with a low turnout of 40% or less would be disastrous for the Khamenei Deep State, as it derives much of its legitimacy from a popular mandate.
Perhaps this is the reason why there is some impatience in Vienna, where talks are taking place between Washington and Tehran on the relaunch of the nuclear deal, as the easing of sanctions and the improvement of the economy under a conservative presidency will stifle some of the moderates’ proposals for populist reforms and reduce grievances that could spark further protests.
This kind of long-term calculation and planning is emblematic of Iran’s pipe-dreaming power structure, where presidents do not materially influence foreign or domestic policies despite the ambitions put forward by candidates every four years. Such political deliberations and determinations are made by an irresponsible internal system that is mainly dominated by hard-line supporters, IRGC loyalists and Khamenei loyalists whose priorities rarely coincide with those of the public.
The Iranian president can theoretically be the head of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), which determines the government’s overall strategy, but control remains firmly in the hands of the Supreme Leader, through his two representatives among the 12 members. permanent members of the board.
This structure ensures that the final decisions of the SNSC can sometimes conflict with the political preferences and campaign commitments of the president. Rouhani initially tried to get around such obstacles, and seems to have succeeded, when the JCPOA was signed six years ago. However, comments made by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif this year have apparently exposed the realities of the IRGC’s long range.
For now, however, it looks like the SNSC is in the driver’s seat of Iranian foreign policy, so it is likely that the new president will honor any agreement reached in Vienna. It would be a victory for the Biden administration but by no means an indication of an improvement in relations between Tehran and Washington. If anything, the relationship is likely to become more strained. The United States will be keen to ensure Iran’s compliance with a renewed agreement, while Tehran will look east to regularly develop ties with Russia and China in a bid to bolster its military support and d ” get a veto if his continued support for the region’s evil forces caught the attention of the UN Security Council.
For an Iranian public desperate for the jobs that would be created in an improving economy, and perhaps the end of their country’s status as an international pariah, there was little motivation to go to the polls to choose a president with such limited power.
However, low turnout and disillusioned citizens only spur malicious interests to override the national will. As a result, rather than addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and prioritizing domestic issues, the regime has instead focused on accelerating its nuclear enrichment programs in defiance of global no -nuclear proliferation, exacerbating regional tensions through its proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and the Gaza Strip, and continuing its long-range missile development program.
Moreover, the Vienna talks on the nuclear deal will ultimately only deal with one aspect of Iran’s worrying behavior. Meanwhile, the related sanctions and restrictions that target its missile development program and regional destabilization activities just don’t go far enough.
The result is a Catch-22 scenario: The success of the Vienna negotiations and Iran’s re-emergence on the world stage will effectively validate for the next eight to twelve years the continued leadership of a hard-line government dominated by the IRGCs. who will resist all efforts to expand the JCPOA or negotiate follow-up agreements targeting Tehran’s malicious and destabilizing influence in the region.
However, the failure of an agreement to return to compliance with the nuclear deal will lead to an acceleration of Iran’s nuclear program, which some experts say could produce highly enriched uranium on an industrial scale within a few months. weeks for military purposes.
There is therefore no alternative but to guarantee the success of the Vienna talks, and American allies in the Gulf must therefore continue to pressure Washington to develop a coherent strategy to deal with other activities. disturbing areas of Tehran.
In seeking to curb Iran’s nuclear program, the P5 + 1 countries (UK, US, China, France and Russia, plus Germany) must not inadvertently subscribe to its malicious influence in other countries or to the libanization of the Shiite Crescent in the region.
- Hafed Al-Ghwell is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Twitter: @HafedAlGhwell
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