The new president is committed to continuing with the negotiations in Vienna but demands that the United States lift the sanctions
Ebrahim Raisi offered his first press conference since his victory in Iran’s presidential elections on Friday and was in favor of continuing with the Vienna nuclear talks, which seek to revive the 2015 agreement. The ultra-conservative cleric, however, assured that he would not maintain “negotiations for the simple pleasure of negotiating” and called for “results for the Iranian nation.”
That “result” is none other than the lifting of punishments by the US, sanctions that prevent Tehran from selling oil and have sunk the national economy. The improvement of relations with Saudi Arabia and the defense of his work as a judge in the face of criticism from human rights organizations that accuse him of being involved in the death sentences of thousands of political prisoners were other key themes of the meeting with the media.
With the atomic agreement as a major pending task and with the question of whether the same negotiating team that has been working since April will remain, Raisi marked as a red line “Iran’s regional activities and the ballistic program”, two of the points that the US, With pressure from their allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, they would be trying to include it in the pact. Whether or not to return to this text depends on the balance of the Middle East in the coming years.
Tehran does not want another version of what was agreed in 2015 and adheres to the document signed with the 5 + 1 group, made up of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany. The Iranians pledged to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. They did their part, but Trump again imposed punishments. This made them begin to take steps that take them away from the original text, such as producing uranium metal again, necessary to make atomic fuel, but which can also be used to make the nucleus of a nuclear warhead, enriching uranium to a purity of 20%, very far from the 3.67% allowed, and start the latest generation centrifuges.
Good course of dialogue
Six rounds of talks have already taken place in Vienna and the tone is very positive between the two sides. Foreign Ministry spokesman Said Jatibzadé said that “it is not unlikely that the next round of talks will be the last.” The return to the agreement was one of Joe Biden’s electoral promises and in recent weeks he has been in favor of starting to lift penalties. Asked whether he would be willing to have a meeting with Biden, the clergyman replied, “No.”
The relationship with Riyadh is another open front, especially due to the clash of interests in places like Yemen, where the Saudis support President Mansur Hadi and the Iranians support the Houthi rebels. Raisi asked his neighbor in the Gulf to stop his military intervention and tried to be conciliatory by saying that “there are no obstacles” to recovering relations and reopening embassies.
His name is linked to the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, when he was deputy prosecutor of the revolutionary court in Tehran. Organizations such as Amnesty International recall that he was the youngest of the four judges who supervised thousands of executions. Raisi is on the list of Iranians sanctioned by the US and this Monday he did not hesitate to defend himself against these accusations.
He was also questioned for the low turnout in the elections, which stood at 48%, the lowest in the history of the Islamic republic. Raisi, like Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, appealed to the conspiracy theory and argued that people went to the polls “despite the coronavirus and psychological warfare.”