Who helped Ebrahim Raisi win the presidential elections in Iran? — Donald Trump!
This is a purposely ridiculous statement because there is more to it than meets the eye.
Look at the timeline:
14 July 2015 – the USA, Iran and other nations announce the nuclear deal. Iran agrees to limit its uranium enrichment and allow the international inspectors into the country. In reciprocation, there was the promise of lifting the sanctions.
16 July 2016 – The USA and Europe lift sanctions as promised.
2017 – President Trump extends the sanctions waivers.
8 May 2018 – President Trump announces the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. He also vows to run a ‘maximum pressure campaign’ to force Iran into negotiations for a new deal.
8 April 2019 — Trump designates the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) a foreign terrorist organization. It was the first time the US declared a part – an important part – of a foreign government as a terrorist organization.
May-October 2019 – The US blames Iran for a series of attacks on oil tankers sailing through the gulf under the flags of Saudi Arabia, Japan, Panama, and Great Britain.
November 2019 – Riots break out in Iran over the economic woes caused by the US and western sanctions and the steep rise in the gasoline prices.
December 2019 – American air strikes kills members of an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq and in return the militia members enter the US embassy in Baghdad and set fires to some structures.
3 January 2020 – The US assassinates General Qassem Soleimani, one of the most popular figures in Iran and the head of Qods Force of IRGC. The country goes into deep mourning and the loathing for USA spreads across the entire spectrum of the Iranian society.
8 January 2020 – Iran strikes some US barracks in Iraq as symbolic retaliation for the assassination of General Soleimani though giving advance warning to prevent any casualties.
9 January 2020 – The Trump administration slaps more sanctions on Iran targeting the construction, manufacturing, mining, and textile industries, virtually crippling the whole economy of Iran. Iranian Rial crashes.
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The systematic cornering of Iran led to the failure of President Rouhani, a reformist and moderate. This reinforced the perception in the Iranian society that it is futile to engage with the west, particularly the United States. It also bolstered the hand of the hardliners, particularly in the religious and political establishment.
The way Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal suddenly and irresponsibly, and the way it placed the whole of Iran under the economic sledgehammer, gave the Guardian Council the free hand to screen the candidates for the presidential elections 2021.
Some noteworthy and popular candidates were rejected including Fereydoon Abbasi, former Head of the Atomic Energy Organization (2011–2013), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former President (2005–2013), Abolhassan Firoozabadi, current Secretary of Supreme Council of Cyberspace (since 2015), Mohsen Hashemi Rafsanjani, current Chairman of the Islamic City Council of Tehran (since 2017), Eshaq Jahangiri, current First Vice President (since 2013), Ali Larijani, former chief of the Parliament (2008–2020), and Zahra Shojaei, former Head of Center for Women’s Participation Affairs (1997–2005),
Even though the Guardian Council approved a list of seven candidates, three of them withdrew. The competition was among four of them: Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh, current Member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (since 2008), Abdolnaser Hemmati, former Governor of the Central Bank (2018–2021), Ebrahim Raisi, current Chief Justice of Iran (since 2019), and Mohsen Rezaee, former Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (1981–1997).
Of these four, three were hardliners to varying degrees. Hemmati, a moderate, was thrown in for ballast with confidence that he was not sufficiently popular to carry the elections.
When approving the candidates, the Guardian Council was obviously looking for someone who could stand up to the west in a more effective manner. In other words, they were not just looking for a hardliner; they were looking for a hardliner who follows the directions set by the founders of the revolution. — This is an assumption but is supported by the fact that the candidacy of the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is himself a hardliner was rejected. The early polls (October 2020 and February 2021) conducted before the screening of candidates by Guardian Council showed that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was leading the pack by a hefty 47% of the respondents. Whether he was rejected because of his popularity or despite his popularity is a question that cannot be answered satisfactorily either way.
The president-elect Ebrahim Raisi was runner up in the presidential elections of 2017 where he bagged 38.28% of cast votes compared to 57.14% of Rouhani.
This time the Supreme Leader Ali Khamene endorsed Raisi, which heightened his chance of victory.
By biased screening of the candidates and the endorsement of Raisi, the religious establishment wanted to make sure that the next president of Iran should be perfectly aligned with the Guardian Council and other top leadership of the religthious establishment.
For this, they banked on the resentment in the population against the west in general and the USA in particular.
However, they miscalculated. — The public resentment was not only against the west; it was also against the authorities in Iran.
Just about 48% of registered voters cast their vote in the elections last week. This was the lowest voter turnout in the presidential elections in Iran in the recent history. This was because of a mixture of apathy and bitterness.
Fearing this, the religious establishment had issued two fatwas (religious edicts), declaring that blank votes are considered haram (forbidden), and not voting would be considered a major sin.
The people found a way to bypass these edicts. The number of void votes in the elections was 3.7 million. Considering that the winner, Raisi, got 17.92 million votes and the next candidate after him got 3.41 million votes, the ‘void vote’ was actually the runner up in these elections.
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Ebrahim Raisi has been accused of a lot of things but toleration for corruption is not one of them. He will address corruption as one of his top priorities and this will win him some interim support pending the real decisions to repair the economy.
To alleviate the economic burden on the people he will likely introduce internal measures to promote production and trading within the framework of self reliance. For this he will use his experience as the Custodian of Razavi Trust, a business and production empire that represents nearly 23% of the non-hydrocarbon economy of Iran.
He will certainly continue the dialogue to salvage the nuclear deal but much concession should not be expected because he would not like to give the impression of an overly appeasing stance.
In foreign trade and technology relations, he will lean toward China and Russia. They will respond happily.
He will build on already-good relations with Turkey and Qatar. He will give another chance to relations with the Arab Street, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia and they would believably give a positive response.
In Caspian, Raisi will likely assert more without giving way to outright confrontation.
For Central Asia, he would pick the pace of interaction to some extent, particularly in transport and transit which he would use to uplift the Iranian to some small extent.
He will also offer barter deals to Central Asia to bypass the banking sanctions. /// nCa, 21 June 2021