The results of the Iranian presidential elections last Friday 18 May clearly represent a turning point in the political life of the Islamic Republic, although at this moment it is not possible to understand how incisive and decisive the actions of the new president and the government, that will soon take office, will be.
The winner Sayyed Ebrahim Raisi belongs to the conservative front and his victory is not at all welcome in the Western chancelleries. The angry reaction of those who declare themselves as champions of the freedom of peoples is a clear evidence: an example of all comes from the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, founder and leader of the “Freedom Party” who on Twitter did not hide his true and more sincere feelings.
I don’t think that President Raisi’s Iranian voters care much about Mr. Wilders’s views, given and considered the pitiful state of Dutch society, but Iran finds itself, unwillingly, facing difficulties that cannot be overlooked.
The ever-difficult relations with the West worsened after the assassination by the US of General Soleimani and the unilateral withdrawal of Trump from the nuclear deal, the real great bet of the Reformists. Then no one can deny that the economy of the Islamic Republic is in dire straits. To this, we must add the COVID-19 epidemic that still rages in Iran.
According to some analysts, Washington does not care who rules in Tehran, as long as it is its obedient doormat. So, what relationships can there be with Westerners in general and Americans specifically? These are some of the questions I asked the Iranian journalist and political analyst Yasser Ershad Manesh of UNews in the aftermath of the elections.
Dr. Ershad Manesh, could you remind our readers of the current situation in Iran? What are the structural weaknesses which absolutely must be fixed?
Iran is now in a situation where Mr. Rouhani has spent eight years focusing on reconciliation with the West, and cruel and unjust US sanctions have put pressure on Iran, and the West has remained completely silent. People are somewhat upset and worried about the future due to rising inflation and unemployment. However, they are still optimistic about the future. Iran still has weaknesses. For example, it still relies on oil revenues. Mr. Khamenei has warned officials and the president about this, but Iran is still practically dependent on oil. In addition, there is no tax revenue, while taxes from the rich can make a lot of money. Moreover, government employees are not very productive. We have a very large government, so its productivity is declining. In foreign policy, too, no attention is paid to the East, and all our interactions are focused on the West and the United States, and this has caused Iran to not have a dynamic and active situation. Of course, experience has shown that whenever the authorities look at themselves and society, it has led to great results. For example, in making Covid-19 vaccines, three Iranian companies did 100% of the work despite the sanctions. We have made progress in nuclear energy, in the military industry, in medicine in the field of knowledge. In the field of nanotechnology, we are among the top 10 countries in the world. And I emphasize that given the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, these developments are very surprising and valuable. Therefore, the new government of Mr. Raisi must consider the capacities inside the country and be able to solve the internal problems. He should strengthen technology and knowledge, so that Iranians, based on their experience, can solve their own problems, despite the sanctions that have been in place since the beginning of the revolution.
What were the consequences of Covid-19 on Iranian society?
Iran, like some other countries, experienced a recession caused by Covid-19. This was while Iran was also under sanctions. But that did not make Iran, like other European and American countries, have the crisis of the shortage of masks or hospital gowns, and steal masks from other countries. People began to volunteer to produce the equipment they needed. Therefore, Iran had a crisis for 3 to 4 days to a week and went through it. Then Iran started making vaccines from the very beginning. Three Iranian private companies have been licensed to do so, and in two months or three months, more than two-thirds of the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be vaccinated. The role of sanctions on Covid-19 was very critical. Iranian money is blocked in foreign countries; oil is sold, and no money is returned to the country. For example, we asked South Korea to buy vaccine from, but, unfortunately, they gave us the vaccines too late. In addition, overall Iranian casualties were lower than in other US and European countries.
Has Iran been helped by Western nations or abandoned to its fate? Who tried to help Iran dealing with the ongoing epidemic?
Russia and China were the first countries to export the vaccine to the Islamic Republic of Iran. And about 5 million vaccines have been injected into the Iranian people to date. This was while the United States re-sanctioned the vaccine companies, and we should not forget that the US sanctions were set against the people and with evil purposes.
How many Iranians have voted in these last but important elections?
About 49 percent voted in the election. The reason why fewer people voted may be because of Mr. Rouhani’s seemingly attractive slogans. During his presidency, inflation multiplied, unemployment doubled. Sales revenue did not return to the country. The United States also imposed targeted sanctions on Iran.
The new Iranian president is Sayyed Ebrahim Raisi, by the Western press a “conservative”: can you give us some details on this important figure? His origins, his studies, his exact political position…
Sayyed Ebrahim Raisi was born in December 1960 in a religious family in the city of Mashhad in the Noghan neighborhood. His father, Hojjatoleslam Sayyed Haji, Rais-ul- Sadati, as well as his mother, Sayyedeh Esmat Khodadad Husseini, belong to the lineage of Sadat Hosseini and his lineage from both sides goes back to Hazrat Zayd ibn Ali ibn Al-Hussain (as). Sayyed Ebrahim lost his father when he was 5 years old. He completed his primary education at the Javadiyeh School and began his seminary studies at the Nawab School and then at the Ayatollah Mousavinejad School. In 1975, he went to the seminary of Qom and Ayatollah Boroujerdi School to continue his education, and for some time he studied in a school run by Ayatollah Pasandideh under the supervision of the late founder of the Islamic Republic, Imam Khomeini. Sayyed after completing the seminary courses was able to enter the master’s degree course in private law and after defending his dissertation entitled ‘Inheritance without heirs’ in 2001 bypassing the doctoral entrance exam of Shahid Motahari University in the field of jurisprudence and private law continued his education. Ebrahim Raisi, by completing his research in the field of jurisprudence and law, succeeded in obtaining the highest level degree of seminary (level four) and finally, he defended his doctoral dissertation entitled ‘Conflict of principle and appearance in jurisprudence and defended law’ and by obtaining an excellent grade, he achieved a doctorate in jurisprudence and law. Raisi entered the field of management in 1980 and attended the judicial office of Karaj city, and after a while, he was appointed as the prosecutor of Karaj. His success in organizing the complex situation of this city caused him to take charge of the Hamedan city prosecutor’s office after two years in the summer of 1982, simultaneously with the Karaj city prosecutor’s office. His simultaneous presence in these two responsibilities continued for a while until he was appointed as the prosecutor of Hamedan province and served in this position from 1982 to 1984. Raisi married Jamileh Sadat Alam al-Huda, the eldest daughter of Ayatollah Sayyed Ahmad Alam al-Huda in 1983 at the age of 23. Dr. Alam al-Huda is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy of Educational Sciences at the Shahid Beheshti University of Tehran, a former director of the Humanities Research Institute, and chairwoman of the Education Commission of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. Hojjatoleslam Raisi and Dr. Alam al-Huda have two daughters. Hojjatoleslam Raisi pays special attention to his education and that of his family members, and his first daughter is married and has two master’s degrees. One is in the field of social sciences from Al-Zahra University and the other is in the field of Quran and Hadith sciences from the University of Hadith in Rey and his second daughter is married and has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Sharif University.
How will the new Iranian government be composed?
Given that many of the ministers of the Islamic Republic of Iran have been the same over the past 40 years and they have no new ideas, Mr. Raisi is likely to use young, highly thoughtful, and up-to-date figures.
In your opinion, what will relations between Iran and the West be like now that Sayyed Ebrahim Raisi is the head of the government? Is there a complete harmony with the supreme guide, Ayatollah Khamenei?
In my opinion, Mr. Raisi will be very firm in dealing with the West, and he is even interested in working and interacting with the West. This is provided that the West is flexible and defends JCPOA. The deal was signed after a long period of pressure, hardship, and time. There will be no reason for Iran to give in to another JCPOA. Because, as far as I know, Mr. Raisi did not believe much in this agreement [JCPOA], but the contract that was signed must be implemented. The United States and Europe should not deviate from this agreement. Many Iranians are also frustrated by the transparency and approach to the West and the United States, as well as bored. I should add that Ayatollah Khamenei and Mr. Raisi are in the same direction and their thoughts are very similar.
Is there a line in the sand that Iran is absolutely unwilling to cross, in its relations with the West and with Washington in particular?
According to the constitution of the Islamic Republic, Iran can have relations with all countries of the world except the Zionist regime.
It has always been the United States that has always pursued a hostile and anti-Iranian stance since the revolution against the Shah and has oppressed Iran. It has supported Saddam’s regime and imposed eight years of war and economic sanctions from the Clinton era, the same Iran Sanction Act began, and finally, we saw that given that JCPOA was signed, Mr. Trump suddenly took over and withdrew from the agreement. And in general, you can easily see that tourists and foreign representatives are welcomed in Iran. In general, there is no law according to which Iran does not want to establish relations with the United States and keep this line blocked. Considering the memorandum of understanding which was signed between Iran and China, if it were signed between Iran and the United States, there would be no problems or restrictions. And it is the United States that, as they do not act their promises, have always made Iran afraid. Iran now thinks that the United States will not fulfill its promises and will not abide by its own agreements.
One last question, on Syria and Yemen: according to some analysts, the Westerners have now lost both wars and the Cebrowski doctrine is destined to be forgotten. In your opinion, is there a grain of truth in this or can the situation on the ground still overturn to the detriment of Damascus and San’a’ ?
Yes, in the Middle East, the new Middle East plan failed. Mrs. Clinton admitted that the United States organized Daesh. Fortunately, with the help of Iranian advisers to Syria, this danger was eliminated in Iraq and Syria, and this plan of chaos and even the disintegration of Syria, Iraq, and in the future, Iran failed. And now I think that these forces, which have nothing to do with Islam at all and they want to link them to Islam and Muslims through propaganda, have been mobilized in Afghanistan to make it insecure. They also wanted to start this revolt and chaos in Central Asia and in Russia in the future. They failed, but at any moment they may become stronger again with the support of the United States, the West and even Israel, and they will create problems for us.