Iran’s new president and his foreign policy
For the past decades, Iran has succeeded in attracting the international limelight by keeping itself at the center of the Middle East’s politics. Although the objectives of Tehran’s charades are common knowledge to the world community, they get the international media’s attention as interesting developments.
So, Tehran purposely stages its diverse activities to convey to the international community messages of military might, scientific advancement, or economic vitality. For instance, though the existing Tehran’s form of government is an autocratic single party, which is presided over by a theocratic establishment that forbids non-Shiite citizens from entering presidential elections, it always like to appear as a democratic country through employing a controlled election.
In Tehran’s views, despite the elections are being controlled, it will tell the outside world that the Iranian people are running their own affairs by using contemporary governance system. Theoretically and practically, this process is neither democratic nor representative, but still it gives the impression that the Iranian people are allowed to willingly elect their representative officials, which are perceptibly the ruling clerics.
Here is how the presidential election hoopla works. All candidates must be vetted by the Guardian Council, which is controlled by the theocratic institution. In the election that has taken place this Friday, 686 names were submitted to that council, only eight names were permitted to run in the race. Two of them withdrew. One of them is Gholam Ali Haddad, a Parliament member, and the other one is Mohammad Reza Aref who was vice president. This as a result left six candidates in the presidential elections.
The objectives of the vetting process are to select the most dogmatic hard line, strong believer in the ideas of the Islamic revolution, and of course, the most compliant to the supreme leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei. This came as a result of the 2009 protests, touted as the largest since the 1979 political upheavals, when two reformists, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi (of Green Movement), were put under house arrest for protesting the electoral process that they claimed were rigged to reelect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The protests that lasted for more than two weeks dented the legitimacy of the ruling clerics. For this reason, a new condition for vetting presidential candidates was introduced to prevent such occurring in the current election. This condition seeks to limit the number of reformist candidates to the minimal, and the reformist must not be popular enough to spark major protests if he loses the election.
That said, all six candidates remained in the presidential race are very close to Ayatollah Khamenei, including Hassan Rouhani, who is known to be reformist. Moreover, they have strong stances on Tehran’s pursuant of its nuclear proliferation program and staunch support for President Bashar Assad of Syria.
Saeed Jalili is Iran’s top nuclear negotiator since 2007 and is considered a hardliner. Hassan Rouhani has taken over the nuclear portfolio in 2003 immediately after Iran’s 20-year-old program was revealed, and was a nuclear top negotiator.
Besides, Ali Akbar Velayati a former foreign minister is currently senior international policy adviser to Khamenei and hence is associated with the nuclear portfolio. Mohsen Rezai is another selected candidate who is the secretary of the Expediency Council that mediates between Parliament and the Guardian Council. Most importantly, he was the chief commander of the Revolutionary Guard.
Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf is Tehran mayor and a previous commander of the Revolutionary Guard during the Iran-Iraq war. Finally, Mohammad Gharazi was anti-Shah and was forced in exile. He also served in Parliament from 1980 to 1990 and held the post of oil and telecommunication minister.
In a nutshell, the entire corps of presidential candidates is selected to head a government in a war-like situation that might ignite as a result of Iran’s intervention in Syria or its nuclear program. Overall, most countries are not taking Tehran’s election seriously. As US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “highly unlikely (the election) to represent the broad will of the Iranian people or represent a change of any legitimate kind.” However, many analysts are interested in the prospects of the new president’s foreign policy.
Currently all its political maneuvers indicate that Iran will continue backing Bashar Assad along with Hezbollah, especially after gaining grounds in the town of Qusayr that has emboldened it to advance to Aleppo. Also, it will continue with its nuclear program. Further, Hassan Nasarallah’s speech on Friday night that was coordinated with the Iranian final or runoff election is aimed to numb the Arab governments and people alike and calm down the international community in order to advance his forces into Aleppo.
Hezbollah’s success in this battle will determine its fate and that of Iran. To preempt any success in this venture, two recent developments have emerged that will change the course of events in Syria. These were the decision of President Barack Obama to arm Syria’s rebels, and the US administration’s conclusion that Syrian President Assad’s government used chemical weapons against the rebels seeking to overthrow him. The confirmation of the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s regime will hasten the international community efforts to intervene in Syria. This is sure to shake Iran mainly because of its uncertain situation which it finds itself in and that will eventually exacerbate its economic stress and a possible total collapse, inciting internal social unrest.
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