Who is Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s New President?

TL;DR (2-minute read)

  1. On June 18th, Ebrahim Raisi was elected Iran’s President in an election that over half of Iran’s population boycotted due to widespread election fraud. 
  2. In Iran, the Shia Muslim Supreme Leader who serves for life has greater power than the elected President, so Raisi as a President has very similar views to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. 
  3. Both are incredibly hardline, meaning they’re very religious and anti-democratic. But while they do not like America and the Western World, they need to address Iran’s economic crisis that worsened after America under Trump pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and placed economic sanctions on Iran. 
  4. To solve this economic situation, Raisi has already shown interest in re-entering the Iran Nuclear Deal with the Western World in exchange for removing international sanctions on their oil industry. In addition, he could turn to China, which would provide Iran with massive investments and markets in its other industries without restrictions on its nuclear program.

In an election that highly favored him, hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi won in Iran’s Presidential Election on June 18. Iran’s political structure is much different from America’s and much of the Western world’s. Iran’s government structure gives more power to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Shia Muslim leader of Iran who rules for life, than the President. Khamenei’s power can go so far as to restrict who runs for the President position. Whether a certain person is fit to be a presidential candidate is decided by the Guardian Council which is controlled by the Supreme Leader. Of the 600 people who applied to be a presidential candidate, only 7 men were permitted to run. Even the few candidates who were allowed to run complained that the election favored Raisi from the start. 

Knowing of Iran’s fraudulent elections, few Iranian citizens showed up to the polls – less than 50% actually voted

Khamenei casts his vote in the election (USA Today)
  1. What does Ebrahim Raisi have control over in Iran?
  2. How will his policies affect America and the rest of the world?

1: What does Ebrahim Raisi have control over in Iran?

While the President comes second to the Supreme Leader, he still has considerable influence in domestic policy and foreign affairs. This means that Raisi’s induction as a hardliner president could create opportunities and problems for the rest of the world. 

2: How will his policies affect America and the rest of the world?

Iran Nuclear Deal: The previous President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, was known to be more moderate. While he worked to maintain Iran’s hardline and religious beliefs, he also wanted to help revitalize Iran’s economy. He also negotiated the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal that ended Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for opening trade relations with the Western nations. Up until now, Rouhani had shown interest in re-entering the nuclear deal (after America under Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018). Just two days ago, Raisi and the Supreme Leader stated their interest in rejoining the deal, but this deal mainly only applies for oil.

Hassan Rouhani at a press conference after Donald Trump pulled America from the Iran Nuclear Deal. Raisi will replace Rouhani in August 2021 (EPA)

China: If Raisi would like to revitalize other industries in Iran’s economy, he could approach China. Knowing that China won’t ask for a deal that could hinder their nuclear program, Iran could easily turn to them for both economic investment and a market for their oil and other goods. Already, the 2 countries have made massive deals to strengthen their relations

America & Europe: Currently, America and the European Union have sanctions in place against Raisi because of his human rights abuses from the late 1980s, when he and 3 other judges oversaw the executions of around 5,000 political prisoners. Due to these sanctions on the President-Elect, it would complicate diplomacy. Normally, per American law, President Biden is prevented from talking to anyone under sanctions. And yet, he has no choice when discussing the Iran Nuclear Deal. Diplomats from the EU are in a similar predicament. 


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