Tehran (AP) – Ebrahim Raisi was sworn into parliament as Iran’s new president on Thursday. The 60-year-old, arch-conservative cleric officially succeeds Hassan Ruhani, who was banned from running after two terms in office.
As the top candidate of the political hardliners and the preferred candidate and protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi won the June presidential election with just under 62 percent of the vote.
Born in 1960 in Maschad in northeastern Iran, Raisi is considered highly influential within the Islamic system. He also maintains a close relationship with Supreme Leader Khamenei. Raisi has served in the judiciary for more than three decades and was appointed head of justice in 2019. He is said to have been responsible for numerous arrests and executions of political dissidents in his previous position as a prosecutor.
According to the constitution, Raisi is only number two in the country because Khamenei is the actual head of state and also has the last word in all strategic matters.
“I want a new Iran, that of the 21st century, and national reconciliation,” Raisi said after being sworn in. He wants the institutionalization of an Islamic democracy and thus the cooperation of all experts, regardless of political and ideological tendencies. “We must not waste time and opportunities on this path,” said the new president.
Nuclear Dispute and Sanctions
Regarding the nuclear dispute with the West, Raisi reiterated that Iran does not want a nuclear bomb. “Our nuclear program is peaceful and the building of atomic bombs is prohibited for religious reasons and is not part of our political and military doctrine.” To end the nuclear dispute, Iran will also follow rational diplomacy, but in the interest of national interests and without any foreign pressure. “However, US sanctions must be lifted in advance…and they will,” the president said. He did not say whether he would negotiate with nemesis USA in the nuclear dispute. The US makes the lifting of sanctions conditional on Iran’s fulfillment of its obligations.
The United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal under then-President Donald Trump in 2018 and gradually imposed massive sanctions on the country. In return, Iran was gradually failing to fulfill its obligations. For several weeks, attempts have been made in Vienna to get both sides back to the nuclear deal.
Politically, Raisi is still a blank slate. He spoke in a speech on Tuesday about unrest and change in the status quo, with which he mainly wants to quickly put an end to the acute economic crisis. His cabinet will be presented to the House of Representatives this weekend. The selection of vice presidents and ministers will then give a more precise indication of his political course. It will also be interesting to know who he will be appointed to the new nuclear team for the negotiations.
Raisi had repeatedly criticized the moderate course of his predecessor Ruhani in recent years – including the 2015 Vienna nuclear agreement. An agreement in the nuclear dispute is also the precondition for an end to the economic crisis he had promised. This agreement, in turn, would not be possible without negotiations with the US. However, this is exactly what Raisi has always criticized in recent years and the future of the deal is therefore uncertain.
Otherwise, the timing of Raisi’s inauguration is anything but ideal. Corona crisis, drought, water shortage, a controversial internet law and protests in various parts of the country weigh on the early stages of his presidency. There is even a threat of military conflict with arch-enemy Israel after Iran was blamed for an attack on an Israeli businessman’s oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.
According to state television, representatives of 80 countries took part in the swearing-in ceremony, including the presidents of Afghanistan and Iraq. The European Union was represented by Enrique Mora, Vice-President of EU Foreign Affairs Officer Josep Borrell. Iran had expected high-ranking guests. Raisi is on the sanctions list for human rights violations in the US and therefore also in Europe.