‘Hardliner’ Raisi will not ‘alter radically’ from Rouhani’s course in the Middle East

IRAN’S new President-Elect Ebrahim Raisi will continue Hassan Rouhani’s course with the nation’s adversaries in the Middle East as well as returning to the JCPOA, an expert has said.

Elected on a historically low turnout, the conservative Raisi – said to be close to the Supreme Leader – came into power after eight years of his more moderate predecessor temporarily improved relations with the West.

With the fate of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the question of sanctions still remaining, the President-Elect will likely steady Iran’s course when it comes to foreign policy.

Dr Arshin Adib-Moghaddam of SOAS University told Redaction Report that Iranian foreign policy will not “alter radically” under Raisi.

“Israel and Iran will continue to tip-toe around each other in the areas where Iran has its strategic allies, in particular in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria,” he said.

“The same dynamic will be prevalent with regard to the Persian Gulf, with more room for diplomacy, in particular with Saudi Arabia.

“In the Gulf too, Iran will continue to foster its strategic relationships in Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere in order to pre-empt any attacks by outside forces. This strategy has been codified as the strategic depth doctrine.”

Hostilities with Israel have steadily simmered, with the Iranian leadership accusing them of mounting a sabotage attack on a nuclear facility last month.

However, recent talks with Saudi Arabia led to “good progress” between the adversaries, according to a spokesman for the Iranian government. This echoed Rouhani’s more doveish foreign policy, in which he tried to cultivate cordial relations with Middle Eastern states – with the exception of Israel.

The historic JCPOA deal – signed in 2015 but broken by Donald Trump years later – was a temporary indicator that both the US and Iran could be brought to the table, despite the oft-erratic foreign policy outbursts of Rouhani’s predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Despite protests at the time from Iran’s hardliners, Raisi appears to have either defied them or encapsulated the diplomatic shift from the nation’s conservatives.

Today a foreign ministry spokesman said: “In case of an agreement about the JCPOA, the government of Mr. Raisi would remain devoted to it.

“The progress in Vienna negotiations is a reality that all sides of negotiations, have acknowledged it although there are still important issues has remained that require decision making from other sides especially the US. Finalizing of the deal to revive the JCPOA depends on the political will of other sides to make difficult decisions.”

To Dr Adib-Moghaddam, “it all depends on Biden”. Raisi’s government has simply picked up where Rouhani left off on the nuclear deal.

He told Redaction Report: “It was the United States that reneged on their promises and left the nuclear agreement under Trump.

“As I have demonstrated in detail in “What is Iran?”: the Trump Presidency alienated a pragmatic Presidency in Iran by killing General Qasem Soleimani and by leaving the JCPOA.

“The sanctions were tightened even during the pandemic giving credence to pre-existent sentiments that all US governments are eternally hostile to Iran because the country choose the path of independence after the revolution in 1979.”

When running for President, Biden promised to revive the JCPOA – but Washington hasn’t gotten further than preliminary talks, much to Tehran’s frustration.

Rouhani said last week: “If Biden shows the slightest laxity in implementing the JCPOA, he has betrayed the American people’s vote.”

Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, Dipl. Pol. (Hamburg), MPhil, PhD (Cantab)
is a Professor in Global Thought and Comparative Philosophies at SOAS.

He is the author of “What is Iran? Domestic Politics and International Relations in Five Musical Pieces”, published by Cambridge University Press as a part of the influential “The Global Middle East” book series. You can purchase it using this link.


Featured Image: Mohammed Ali Marizad @ Tasnim News Agency

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