A general harvest from the rule of Ibrahim Raisi: a combination of strength and weakness

Today, Iran is in a more comfortable position that qualifies it to play a role in balancing East and West and allows it to exploit and exploit regional conflicts and fierce regional competition and benefit from all of this. Tehran has come to the conclusion that the global rise of non-Western powers will allow Iran to consolidate its influence and increase its bargaining power.

A year has passed since the president, Ebrahim Raisi, took power in Iran. This year may be one of the most difficult years facing an Iranian president since the establishment of the revolutionary regime in 1979, in terms of levels of tension and ambiguity. There is no doubt that President Raisi has faced great challenges since assuming his position without this being the result of the policies pursued by his administration, and these challenges could not be avoided or resolved quickly. The scale and extent of the ever-increasing conflict between international powers in an increasingly multipolar world—the escalating assertion of Chinese (and also Russia’s) hegemony, as well as the continuation of sanctions against Iran—pose challenges and obstacles to Iran’s political landscape that are certainly entirely outside the control of President Raisi.

The widening gap

Raisi has assumed the presidency of the Republic of Iran, a position that represents a source of national and regional strength as well, but it is closely linked to the economic, political and security problems that are often intertwined with each other and represent a pull factor for Iran towards opposing directions. This, it seems, that comprehensive internal reform is inevitable if Tehran wants to expand its influence, legitimize its regime, and preserve the health of its economy. The widening gap between citizens and the state (1) and multiple and debilitating sanctions, severe economic stagnation, endemic corruption, and growing civic demands for greater social freedoms (especially among youth and women) are just some of the chronic political crises facing my president. Without succeeding in a comprehensive response to it after one year of taking office.

It can be said that Raisi, the candidate who represented the fundamentalists in the presidential campaign, was elected after elections considered the lowest in the history of Iranian presidential elections since 1979.

From the moment Raisi came to the presidency, the fundamentalists occupy all three vital constitutional positions in the Iranian political system, namely: the presidency of the republic and the presidency of the judiciary, in addition to their assumption of the highest responsibilities in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Parliament). Initially, it was believed that a homogeneous and coherent system characterized by sharing a common ideological vision might be able to stop the exacerbation of political division within the political apparatus, and many assumed that this could lead to increased coordination and improved government performance (2)In the end, however, the unification of the political system and the harmonization of the ideological interests of the three sovereign institutions did not allow, in the end, to solve the main issues that the government is facing now at the local and external levels, amid the absence, or even the absence, of flexibility in communication between the various state agencies, in addition to what Relationships between the three presidencies have been marked by tension, even if its intensity has diminished compared to what witnessed during the era of President Rouhani.

The focus of this paper is to discuss three issues, which may not be so prominent but are interconnected, that have preoccupied President Raisi and forced him to engage in struggles to deal with them in the past twelve months.

Foreign Policy: Go East

With regard to the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we find that Tehran has shifted the focus of its policies towards the east, specifically towards China and Russia; This is in an effort by the regime to exploit and exploit the tensions between these two global powers, China and Russia, and the West as a tool to build the country economically and politically. However, the practice of maximum pressure and the imposition of harsh and persistent sanctions on Iran have had severely detrimental effects on the Iranian economy.

Continuing in this context, the spread of corruption at the central and local levels, and the mismanagement of economic opportunities by officials further aggravated the economic situation in Iran (3) . The worsening economic crisis has led to a growing sense of frustration among Iranians over low standards of living, widespread administrative corruption, and uncertainty about the outcome of the nuclear deal. As disillusionment grows, Raisi has become one of the least popular presidents of the past four decades.

The continuous change in the map and structure of global power represented by the rise of China and its self-imposition as an influential international player, in addition to the witnessed diversity at the level of the multiplicity of the “nucleus” of the great powers in exchange for the shrinking of the roles of the parties’ states, in addition to the challenge posed by Russia by its invasion of Ukraine. Strengthening Tehran’s position on the international stage. Today, Iran is in a more comfortable position that qualifies it to play a role in balancing East and West and allows it to exploit and exploit regional conflicts and fierce regional competition and benefit from all of that. Tehran has come to the conclusion that the global rise of non-Western powers will allow Iran to consolidate its influence and increase its bargaining power, because it no longer operates within a broader international structure that is completely subject to the domination of a Western core that strongly opposes Iran’s pursuit of a leading role (4). It may now be time to implement Iran’s vision of its policy towards the East more effectively, because conservatives, including the Revolutionary Guards, have often sought alliances with eastern powers, i.e. with China and Russia, to resist Western pressure on Iran (5) . In the same context, Tehran, under Raisi’s leadership, succeeded in obtaining membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is a clear indication that its eastward-oriented position is receiving attention from the eastern powers. Iran has also signed two long-term strategic plans agreements, one with Beijing and the other with Moscow, in an effort to strengthen its role as a regional player capable of undermining American hegemony, especially in the Middle East.

Resist sanctions and internal pressure

Iran, then, has managed to weather the toughest economic pressures it has experienced since 2018, in part due to Tehran’s success in allying with eastern powers. This, while resistance to unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States led to revisions and amendments to the nuclear agreements between Tehran and Washington in Vienna. This indicates that both sides have not yet found a reliable alternative to the existing nuclear agreement; Where Washington had no military option to resume dealing with Iran (partly because of its military and intelligence failures in Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and partly because of the growing popularity of the isolationist approach among broad categories of the American electorate). In this context, we recall the US’s reluctance to act more decisively with Tehran, despite the confirmed news that Tehran has achieved a significant increase in uranium enrichment by 60% and has stopped complying with some of the basic demands of the International Atomic Energy Agency.(6) ; The continuation of sanctions and the stalled nuclear talks, which have not yet reached a reliable solution, have exacerbated the economic situation in Iran, recorded a significant depreciation of the Iranian currency and increased inflation rates. All of this collectively resulted in great suffering among citizens, especially the poor and middle classes.   

As a result, these sections of society have actively participated in all the recent civil uprisings, which means that their growing discontent poses real political risks to Raisi. This is in addition to the fact that Raisi’s failure to fulfill the promises he made to create employment and housing opportunities, reduce inflation and increase economic growth has led to division and tension in the nature of the people’s relationship with the state under Raisi’s administration (7) .

Tehran had hoped, with the election of a president as president of the Islamic Republic of Iran right after President Biden came to power in Washington and removed his predecessor Trump, that Biden would reverse, or at least moderate, Washington’s harsh policies against Iran. But two years later, the Biden administration has changed very little US policies toward Iran. where the president’s first year in office saw no change in Washington’s position regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions; Continuing maximum pressure policies means that Raisi is still unable to deliver on his promises of economic growth and social prosperity.

“Nuclear Talks” and the President’s Legitimacy

On the other hand, the protracted and frustrating nuclear deal talks have undermined Raisi’s legitimacy as a leader; Many Iranians blamed him for distorting the process and for delaying a nuclear deal with the West.

As for the Iranian internal level, and in the midst of the state of economic misery and extreme poverty experienced by the citizens, the state agencies have not eased any of the harsh social restrictions imposed on the people; Where women are still fined or arrested if they do not comply with the rules of Islamic dress (8) , the provisions of Islamic law, as interpreted by conservative Shiite clerics, are still prevalent in all aspects of social and private life alike. This, while the collective disillusionment with the state’s ideology, in addition to the significant decline in living standards, resulted in the tendency of many young people to emigrate.

Raisi’s elections recorded the lowest level of competition over the past four decades, with the lowest electoral turnout; His failure to enact liberal social reforms desired by a large majority of citizens turned his initial legitimacy deficit into blatant unpopularity.

With regard to the security level, and since the two presidents took power, Iran has not been seriously threatened by foreign invasion, despite recording a number of Israeli and American military violations. But Iran, on the other hand, faced several acts of internal sabotage against its nuclear facilities and nuclear scientists were assassinated inside the country.

Iran in the region

At the regional neighborhood level, Iran has continued to support Hezbollah and Hamas in their activities against Israel, and has also sought to consolidate its foothold in Syria. In Yemen, the ceasefire between the Houthis and the internationally recognized Yemeni government led to a round of secret talks between Riyadh and Tehran, which Baghdad supervised. This has temporarily reduced the degree of tensions between Tehran and its neighbors at the regional level.

Raisi came to power, then, after making a package of big campaign promises. He pledged to improve people’s quality of life by boosting economic growth, uniting the fragmented political factions within the state, and tackling corruption… But none of those promises were fulfilled. On the other hand, it seems possible to overcome the very difficult economic challenges in Iran, albeit on the surface, by signing a nuclear agreement with the West in exchange for the easing of sanctions. This step would stimulate economic growth, strengthen Iranian industry, slow inflation, and stabilize the national currency. Providing Tehran with opportunities to increase the volume of trade exchanges exempt from sanctions will make it able to bring about measurable improvements in the lives of the Iranian people; These improvements in employment rates, house prices, and access to international goods, if they materialize, may enhance the legitimacy of Raisi’s administration. Initiating liberal reforms at the social level may greatly increase Raisi’s popularity among citizens who believe that there is a wide gap between their own interests and the ideology of the state. As a reminder here, Raisi based his program on his predecessor Rouhani’s accusations of either creating chronic problems for Iran or of failing to respond to them appropriately. However, Raisi’s own administration has so far been plagued by the same crises and the same level of incompetence. And although Raisi has had the support of Parliament, the judiciary, as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards(9) However, he finds himself constitutionally constrained in his unilateral undertaking of major strategic changes… The unquestionable fact here is that the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, ultimately makes all major decisions on issues such as deals Nuclear (10) .

Achieving the nuclear deal would undoubtedly lead to profound economic improvements. However, at the level of internal public life, political fragmentation will persist, as will corruption, economic mismanagement, and anger at social restrictions.

On the external level, if Raisi is to rebuild Iran, he must pursue the normalization of Iranian relations with neighboring countries after decades of conflict and tension (and calm relations with Saudi Arabia in particular). If the nuclear agreement is signed in Vienna, Tehran will also have to prove to the world (especially the West and its allies in the Middle East) that the economic growth expected to result from this will be complemented by tangible changes in Iran’s regional behavior. This will be a critical element in rebuilding Iran’s regional and international reputation.

a summary

In this paper, we tried to simplify the challenges facing Raisi after one year of his presidency. As for the current situation that Iran is facing, it is more delicate, complex and multi-layered. Raisi faces inherited constraints (imposed by the Iranian constitution) due to the role assigned to the Supreme Leader in the critical decision-making process; Raisi’s authority to pursue economic, political, and social reforms is also subject to verification by the various political and religious factions that have influence over the presidency. To overcome the structural challenges that Iran has faced since the 1979 revolution, there is an urgent need for fundamental changes to the existing political system, and while this happens, Raisi has the default ability to catalyze further systemic reform by engaging in meaningful nuclear talks and signing a nuclear deal. new.

The paper was prepared for Al Jazeera Center for Studies in English and translated into Arabic by Dr. Karim Al-Majri.

About the author

Alam Saleh 

Lecturer in Iranian Studies, Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University .REFERENCE

  1. Sina Toosi, “Iran and Raisi Have a Legitimacy Crisis,” Foreign Policy , June 23, 2021, https://bit.ly/3PG2HUn (accessed August 21, 2022).
  2. “Iran: The Riddle of Raisi,” International Crisis Group, 5 August 2021, https://bit.ly/3c78B3d (accessed 21 August 2022).
  3. “A year on, Iran’s Raisi faces economy in trouble,” France 24, 2 August 2021, https://bit.ly/3PEaRMW (accessed 21 August 2022).
  4. Alam Saleh, “The Iran-China Strategic Partnership and Changing Regional Order,” 16 April 2021, https://bit.ly/3c9T829 (accessed 21 August 2022).
  5. aAlam Saleh and Zakiyeh Yazdanshenas, “Iran’s Pact With China Is Bad News for the West,” Foreign Policy, 9 August 2020, https://bit.ly/3AbZvdt (accessed 21 August 2022).
  6. Maziar Motamedi, “Iran’s economy reveals power and limits of US sanctions,” Al Jazeera, 2 February 2022, https://bit.ly/3wgRLFW (accessed 21 August 2022).
  7. Maziar Motamedi, “Can Iran’s new President Raisi fix a deeply troubled economy?” Al Jazeera, 2 August 2021, https://bit.ly/3T8nymf (accessed 21 August 2022).
  8. Kourosh Ziabari, “Iranian women under pressure as Raisi stiffens hijab mandate,” Al-Monitor, 23 July 2022, https://bit.ly/3QGDiuP (accessed 21 August 2022).
  9. Maziar Motamedi, “The many challenges facing Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi,” Al Jazeera , August 5, 2021, https://bit.ly/3PzE2k5 (accessed August 21, 2022).
  10. Ariane Tabatabai, “Nuclear Decision-Making in Iran: Implications for US Nonproliferation Efforts,” The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, 6 August 2020, https://bit.ly/3ADOza0 (accessed 21 August 2022).
SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

Articles: 14307

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *