Raisi era heralds hard pivot to the East

Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi is to being sworn in as the 8th president of Iran on Thursday (August 5) at the parliament (Majlis) two days after having been formally endorsed by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei.

The ceremony at the Majlis will be attended by Iraq President Barham Salih and other heads of state, by foreign ministers and by representatives of the UN secretary-general, OPEC, the EU, the Eurasia Economic Union, and the Inter-Islamic Union.  

The Islamic Republic of Iran now enters a new era in more ways than one. Khamenei himself outlined its contours in a short, sharp speech, “The Experience of Trusting the US.”

Khamenei’s strategic analysis was conveyed even before the final result of the Iran nuclear deal negotiations in Vienna in 2015, which I covered in my Asia Times ebook Persian Miniatures. It turned out to be premonitory: “During the negotiations, I repeatedly said they don’t uphold their promises.” And thus, in the end, “the experience tells us this is a deadly poison for us.”

During the Rouhani administration, Khamenei adds, “it became clear that trusting the West doesn’t work.”  

With excellent timing, a new six-volume book, Sealed Secret, co-written by outgoing Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and two top negotiators on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, Ali Akbar Salehi and Seyed Abbas Araghchi (who’s still involved in the current, stalled Vienna debate), will be published this week – only in Farsi for the moment.

Professor Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran summed up for me the road map ahead: “Iran’s foreign policy decisions are pretty clear. Iran will be putting less emphasis on Western nations, especially European, and more emphasis on the Global South, the East, neighboring countries – and of course that will include China and Russia.

That doesn’t mean the Iranians are going to ignore Europe altogether if they decide to return to the JCPOA. The Iranians would accept if they abide by their obligations. So far, we have seen no sign of that whatsoever.”

Marandir referred to Khamenei’s speech: “It’s pretty clear. He’s saying, ‘We don’t trust the West, these last eight years showed that.’ He’s saying the next administration should learn from the experience of these eight years.”

Yet the main challenge for Raisi will not be foreign policy, but the domestic framework, with sanctions still biting hard: “With regard to economic policy, it will be tilting more toward social justice and turning away from neoliberalism, expanding the safety net for the disenfranchised and the vulnerable.”