Amid strong speculation that Iran is about to reach a new agreement with world powers on its nuclear program, the country elected a new president, Ebrahim Raisi. The head of the new government will have the opportunity to revive the Iranian economy, improve diplomatic relations, and strengthen geopolitical outreach in the Middle East and other regions.
Governance is the top priority, and at this critical moment, the choices faced by the new president cannot be more severe or more important.
How this hardline conservative chooses his priorities and manages the potential windfalls of the nuclear deal will go a long way in shaping the future of his country and the Middle East.
This is particularly important because, in the eyes of most Iranians, the presidential election lacks basic democratic legitimacy, and after the regime manipulated the election process to support Raisi, they did not appear in the polls.
In fact, the 60-year-old Raisi is expected to succeed the like-minded but frail 80-year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who by definition is the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran people.
The new Iranian president can choose one of three ways to govern.
First, Lai Xi can give priority to economic investment and reforms, and send a clear message that his government will use the new nuclear agreement and the economic benefits of the new international opening it provides to improve ordinary people who have suffered decades of hardship Livelihoods of Iranians. Sanctions and isolation.
But in order to ensure economic transformation, the government must also carry out political reforms to increase the frustrating credibility of the Islamic regime in the eyes of most of its citizens. The rigged elections this month undermined legitimacy and increased tensions between the Islamic and republican/democratic components of the Islamic Republic.
By extension, this approach also means a change in foreign policy to curb Iran’s costly regional risks in order to support healthier trade and cooperation with neighboring countries.
However, without addressing the country’s widespread structural corruption and systemic mismanagement, and confronting influential clerical elites and the Revolutionary Guards, economic, political, or strategic reforms will not be possible.
Will Raisi seize the opportunity to chart a different path forward for Iran? Judging from his long-term and profound loyalty to the priesthood, the answer is undoubtedly no.
However, I think the probability of this happening is 0-5%.
Second, after the nuclear agreement is renewed, Lai Xi can also choose to rely on rising oil prices and increased income from foreign investment to maintain the status quo. On the basis of “mutual respect and common interest”-Tehran’s favorite diplomatic term-he can slowly extend a helping hand to Iran’s neighbors and European powers.
Iran has greater influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen because it plays an expansive and destabilizing role there. It can reverse the situation by helping these troubled countries restore security, peace and stability, and win a lot of goodwill and prestige in the process.
As the United States shrinks its military commitments in the region, it may even become a guarantor of regional security. The same is true for stabilizing and improving relations with neighboring countries in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, which may be a win-win situation for both peoples. To be sure, the Raisi government will not change Iran’s position on Israel, nor will it resist those who change their positions.
As NATO withdraws its troops from Afghanistan, trying to play a role in Afghanistan with Pakistan and Turkey will be a powerful test of the new president’s intentions and goals.
After 40 years of official hostility, relations with the United States will take longer to normalize. The United States imposed sanctions on Lacey for alleged human rights violations only two years ago, which will not help improve relations in the short term.
I gave this more realistic scenario a 35% chance.
Third, the new Iranian president may decide to redouble his emphasis on his hardline and conservative views, and use the gains from rising oil prices and new investments to fund the exhausted faculty and to further strengthen the power of the Revolutionary Guard. Spread Shia-Iranian influence in the region.
He can use the instability and instability that Arab neighbors continue to suffer to expand Iran’s influence, as he has done in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
This means further strengthening the power of armed sectarian militias, which will lead to more covert operations and assassinations, and deepen regional sectarianism, violence and instability. Arab lack of strategic deterrence to prevent Tehran from pursuing its own interests at the expense of neighboring countries will undoubtedly attract new Iranian leaders to continue their offensive.
Likewise, the recent short-sighted alliance announced between several small Gulf states and Israel is likely to encourage Tehran to take more active action against those who wish it to get sick.
U.S. military separation, although limited, and reduced strategic commitments to “traditional allies” may further encourage the new president to strengthen Iran’s power game to fill the gap.
Under all the same conditions, I think the probability of this rather pessimistic situation happening is 65%.
In other words, it is important to remember that Iranian politics, like the politics of the region, is not static. Nor is the East-West relationship. Most countries in the region may see new turbulence, which may cause a heavy blow to Iran.
Similarly, the readjustment of interests and the reconstruction of the alliance may change Iran’s calculations under the leadership of Lai Xi, forcing him to accept the second situation, for his own interests, national interests, and yes, regional interests.
He can also miraculously accept the first situation, which is more sensible and constructive, and set an example for the region. There is no harm in dreaming.