The great powers met again in Vienna in a bid to relaunch the Iran nuclear deal, a process complicated by the election to the Iranian presidency of Ebrahim Raisi, a die-hard conservative cleric deeply hostile to Western values .
Israel denounced the new Raisi government as a “brutal executioner regime” for its involvement in mass executions in 1988 and predicted it would be a pawn in the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“The election of Raisi is, I would say, the last chance for the world powers to wake up before going back to the nuclear deal and understanding who they are dealing with,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said. “A brutal executioner regime should never be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction. Israel’s position will not change on this.
Senior diplomats from China, Germany, UK, France and Russia will meet in the Austrian capital for the first time since Raisi’s election to take stock of developments in the 2015 deal The United States withdrew under Donald Trump and the terms of the deal were violated by Iran because it enriched the uranium above allowable levels. The United States has said it will join on terms that globally mean it will reduce sanctions and Iran will revert to its original commitments.
Iranian diplomats, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, insist they have the same negotiating mandate as before and say a deal could be reached long before Raisi takes power in early August, because none of the remaining obstacles are insurmountable. Raisi himself said during the election campaign that he supported the deal.
Some Western diplomats say Iran was blocking months-long talks to ensure the outgoing Reform government could not claim credit for restoring the deal and lifting US sanctions ahead of the election. These diplomats claim that with the reformists now defeated inside Iran, the revived deal will be quickly concluded.
But others say the same difficult issues are still unresolved, including how the United States can guarantee it won’t quit the deal again, how Iran manages the knowledge and assets it has developed all. by violating the terms of the deal, if the hardline Iranian parliament can delay Iran complying with the terms of the deal until it is satisfied that the US sanctions have been lifted, and finally the basket specific US sanctions that will be lifted. The United States lifted some sanctions on Friday to allow humanitarian food and medicine to reach the country.
They also point out that Iranian conservatives called the initial nuclear deal a “stinking corpse” and “national humiliation,” so they will have to execute a delicate political spin to claim the restart of the deal as a political triumph.
Trump withdrew the United States from the deal in 2018, imposing maximum economic sanctions on Iran, politically torpedoing the reformist government led by Hassan Rouhani, in part creating the context for Raisi to win the election.
Raisi, 60, the head of the judiciary, won a landslide victory with 18 million votes in a contest in which serious rivals were barred from standing, but the result was weakened by a collapse in the number of votes which left the true turnout closer to 43%, rather than the official 48% which was already the lowest recorded in the history of the Islamic republic.
The votes cast included 4 million spoiled ballots, well above the normal rate and suggesting a conscious decision by large numbers of Iranians to go to the polls to record their protest against the regime and the limited choice on the poll. ballot – bringing the proportion of Iranians who voted for a candidate up to five percentage points lower.
The turnout in the capital, Tehran, was only 26% and in Shiraz just over 30%. In Tehran province, 12% of the votes cast were void. National participation in 2017 was 73.3% and in 2013 72.9%.
The result led to a bitter social media inquiry among reformists into the wisdom of some like Behzad Nabavi to put their weight behind central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, fourth behind spoiled ballots, and another conservative. in the absence of a real reformist candidate.
Part of the older generation had supported Hemmati at the last moment, while the reformist coordination group split 50/50 over whether to support a man who had little political experience, was unpopular due to his tenure at the central bank and, surprisingly, failed to set a clear economic plan, the issue the election was most likely to turn on. At the time of his semi-approval by Reformers, polls showed Hemmati had no chance of winning 3.6% in the polls.
Many have said that the debacle with Hemmati was the death knell for a certain generation of reformists who believe an elected government can bring about change without confronting the powerful unelected conservative state led by Khamenei.
The United States said the Iranians were denied a democratic election, stressing that all prominent reformists were disqualified as candidates by the 12-member Guardian Council.
A sign of the limits of some reformists, Zarif said he was disappointed and surprised by the disqualifications, but accepted Raisi’s legitimacy as president.
Raisi, who has campaigned as an opponent of corruption, is tasked with building an economic program, a cabinet, including a new foreign minister and head of justice, as well as appeasing the threat of a new wave of coronavirus sweeping the country.
Human rights activists were appalled at his election. Amnesty chief Agnès Callamard demanded that Raisi be prosecuted for her role in the murder of thousands of MEK prisoners in 1988. Iran viewed the MEK as a terrorist group that sought to overthrow the regime, but the regime members both condemned extrajudicial killings. Raisi was a member of the death committee that sent thousands to be shot or hanged.