The incoming president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, has immediately lashed out at the United States. He is willing to talk about the nuclear deal again, but refuses a meeting with Joe Biden. “America must lift all sanctions against Iran.”
The 60-year-old Chief Justice Raisi will succeed the pragmatic Hassan Rouhani as president on August 3. Raisi, a protege of spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, won 62 percent of the nearly 29 million votes.
At the first press conference after his crushing election win last Friday, Raisi took a lead on his foreign policy. “Iran wants to interact with the world,” Raisi said. “Improving relations with our neighbors in the region will be my government’s priority.”
Shia clergy-ruled Iran has tense relations with the Gulf states in the Middle East, which are ruled by Sunni families. Raisi wants to improve relations with rival Saudi Arabia, among others.
Tehran is also at loggerheads with the United States and Israel, who want to prevent the Iranians from producing nuclear weapons in the future.
The US, Iran and major powers signed a deal on Tehran’s nuclear program in 2015. It agreed that Iran would limit its own nuclear activities in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions.
That already went wrong after a few years when the then US president Donald Trump canceled those agreements, which, according to him, did not go far enough. Trump’s departure paved the way for new negotiations to restore that nuclear deal.
Raisi said at his press conference that he is in favor of negotiations, as long as they are in the national interest. “We don’t allow negotiation for the sake of negotiation. Every meeting must yield results.”
In addition, the president-elect refuses to make concessions to Iran’s ballistic missile program. ,,That’s not negotiable”, Raisi said.
He calls on the US to respect the earlier deal. “America must immediately return to the deal and lift all sanctions against Iran.”
The hardliner refuses to meet US President Joe Biden. Not even if the Americans were to lift the sanctions.
Despite the change of government in Tehran, sources around the nuclear talks are optimistic about the outcome of the nuclear negotiations in Vienna. Iran’s de facto leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, also wants a new nuclear deal to free his country from severe economic sanctions.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that the US has no diplomatic relations with Iran. There are also no plans for a meeting between the leaders. “So it’s unclear if anything has actually changed on that front.”
She added that Biden considers Iran’s Khameini to be the supreme leader. ,,That was the case before the elections; it is the case today; it will probably also be the case in the future.”
Insiders say to The New York Times that there are still some stumbling blocks. For example, the Iranians are reportedly demanding a written guarantee that a future US president will not simply throw the deal back in the trash, as Trump did.
A US official called that a “reasonable-sounding demand,” which is politically unfeasible because “no real democracy” can guarantee such a thing.
Raisi was first confronted on live television with his role in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war. An estimated 5,000 people were executed.
Raisi did not elaborate on that. He only said: “I am proud that I have always defended human rights.”
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