The World Today for June 17, 2021



Exorcising Enemies

Iran and world leaders hope to revive the 2015 nuclear accords before Iranian voters elect a new president on June 18.

The accord would impose limits on Iran’s nuclear program while lifting international sanctions that have battered the Iranian economy where inflation and unemployment are high. Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate and reformer, helped design the agreement. But a hardliner, Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, is expected to succeed him, reported Al Jazeera.

Securing the nuclear deal now could improve its chances of sticking under Raisi, an ultra-conservative cleric and close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He has already signaled that he would likely not touch the agreement.

Raisi has a track record that illustrates how he might run the country, France24 reported. In Mashhad, a city where he wielded religious authority, he banned musical concerts. Recently, in the country’s judicial system, he has prosecuted his – and Khamenei’s – political enemies on corruption charges. In the 1980s, he oversaw political, or “revolutionary,” trials that led to hundreds of executions.

Controversy is also dogging Raisi, however.

Iranian election authorities can vet presidential candidates based on “age, piety and experience,” factors that “give the council wide leeway,” the Guardian wrote. The officials banned most moderates and reformist candidates from running in the election, paving the way for the Ayatollah’s man to win.

Human rights activists cried foul. “We are witnessing an unabashed attack on any semblance of republican principles in favor of the absolute power of the supreme leader,” Stanford University Iran expert Abbas Milani told the New York Times.

Khamenei endorsed the council’s decision but then later, after public outrage, said the banned candidates were “wronged.” The council did not overturn its decision, though.

The absence of candidates that appeal to the significant reformist chunk of the electorate might be one reason why voter apathy is so high. Turnout is expected to plunge to a record low, Al-Monitor reported.

The candidates clashed in a recent televised debate. Candidate Mohsen Rezaee, the former chief of the Revolutionary Guards, suggested that he would jail moderate candidate Abdolnaser Hemmati, the former central bank chief, for ruining the country’s economy, for example, reported Reuters.

The tensions could reflect how Iran’s political class as a whole has lost legitimacy in recent years, the BBC wrote. The government has cracked down on political protests, arrested activists, executed political prisoners, mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian commercial airliner and, last year, failed to protect the leader of the Revolutionary Guards, Qassem Soleimani, from US assassination.

Iranian hardliners need to ask themselves whether more of the same will be good for their country. Many voters already know that answer.

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