Ebrahim Raisi will be sworn in as the eighth president of the Islamic Republic on Thursday. According to the Iranian press, dozens of foreign delegations will attend the ceremony in Tehran, even amid a raging coronavirus pandemic that has already claimed some 100,000 lives in Iran.
Regrettably, the E.U.’s representative will not miss the event, despite the fact that two European citizens were murdered several days ago aboard the Mercer Street tanker in the Gulf of Oman by an Iranian suicide drone.
The brutal exploits of Iran’s new president have already been established. The extremist conservative, more dubiously known as the “butcher of Tehran” for his role in the executions of thousands of political dissidents in 1988 as a member of the “death panel,” and many thousands more in subsequent years as head of the justice system, is already under personal international sanctions for these gross human-rights violations. In his rebuttals against his critics, he has said chillingly: “I was just doing my duty.”
The Office of the President of Iran has also been occupied by presidents from the more liberal, moderate stream of Iranian politics—specifically Mohammad Khatami in the late 1990s and current outgoing President Hassan Rouhani—whose contributions in terms of rooting out corruption and instituting reforms in the area of human liberties, have been exceedingly modest, to say the least.
But they were the “smiling faces” of Iran toward the outside world. Some of them, such as outgoing Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, with his proficient English and American university degree, were even well-liked by their Western counterparts.
On the other hand, the conservative camp in Iran has always hated and criticized them (usually unjustifiably) for their inability to rehabilitate Iran’s faltering economy or their alleged “weakness” in dealing with the United States and global powers. The conservative newspaper Vatan Emrooz dedicated its two front pages this week to Rouhani.
One, a black-and-white photo of Rouhani meant to resemble an obituary, accompanies the headline: “We will never forget and never forgive.” The headline of the other article, underneath a photo of Rouhani leaving the podium following a speech to parliament, says in no uncertain terms: “Just leave already.”
All this will end Thursday with Rouhani’s departure and Raisi’s inauguration. Taking the presidency will essentially give the radicals in Iran total control of the state’s most vital organs, from the office of the supreme leader to the military and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Supreme National Security Council, parliament and the judiciary.
The new president’s first challenge will be the nuclear talks with the West. On the eve of his inauguration, Raisi has promised to work to immediately to lift the “tyrannical sanctions” imposed by the American administration, but the West is afraid that to prove his strength, contrary to his predecessor, Raisi will order his foreign minister (who has yet to be appointed) to return to Vienna (not before September) with an order to ignore the current “defeatist” drafts of the nuclear deal, which Rouhani almost signed, and reset negotiations to their starting point.
Another concern is that the Iranians will continue insisting on returning to the original 2015 deal, will reject extending its expiration date, add will refuse any new clauses pertaining to their ballistic missile program or regional subversion activities. It’s possible they will also ask the Americans to remove all sanctions before a deal is signed. In this scenario, the chances of a deal coming to fruition become slimmer, which will allow Iran to continue its mad dash toward a nuclear bomb.
Senior American officials on Tuesday warned Tehran that time was not on their side. It’s entirely uncertain that Raisi and his boss, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, view things the same way. Every day that passes helps Iran enrich more uranium to a higher purity grade, spin its advanced centrifuges ever faster and conceal information from U.N. monitors.
This state of affairs will present the Biden administration with just two options, neither of which he likes: Renew and intensify the sanctions imposed on the previous regime, which was proven largely ineffective, or threaten Iran with military force.
One thing is absolutely certain: The United States’ restraint in the face of Iranian red-line violations, such as increasing its stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, which is enough to make a bomb, and its cessation of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, has emboldened the Iranians to expand their terrorist activities and gave them the confidence to launch the suicide drone at the oil tanker. If the Americans don’t respond appropriately this time, the IRGC’s appetite for violence will only grow.
On the domestic front, Raisi is aware of the epic battle ahead of him to save the country from its dire financial straits, soaring unemployment and double-digit inflation, which is what he promised in his election campaign. If he fails in this regard, he won’t have anyone to blame other than himself and his boss.
The Iranian people, who are largely indifferent to the nuclear issue and mostly non-hostile toward Israel, deserve far better than this president of evil and abasement.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.