This is the paradox of the Iranian presidential election. The election of the Iranian ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raïssi puts an end to the alternation of facade between “conservatives” and “reformers” at the head of the Islamic Republic, but it should not deeply modify its foreign policy. In the short term, his proclaimed victory on Saturday, June 19, with 61.95% of the vote, could even accelerate the conclusion of the negotiations underway to save the Vienna agreement on Iranian nuclear power.

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Although coming from a political current characterized by opposition to the United States and rejection of the West, Ebrahim Raïssi adheres to the line set by Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei: the lifting of American sanctions is a priority to improve the country situation.

A six-week “window of opportunity”

At the end of a sixth round of discussions completed on Sunday, June 20, in Vienna, the negotiators returned to their capitals for consultations. According to New York Times, the US negotiating team, led by Robert Malley, believes that the next six weeks leading up to the inauguration of Iran’s new president offer a “Single window of opportunity” to conclude the indirect talks which should resume shortly in Vienna.

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In this scenario, negotiations would therefore continue with the team of reformer outgoing president Hassan Rohani. That of Ebrahim Raïssi would then be responsible for implementing the agreement reached, before taking office, with the green light from Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei.

«A lifting, or at least a mitigation of American sanctions appears to be a vital issue for all Iranian officials, whatever their affiliations ”, analysis Michel Duclos, former ambassador and special advisor at the Institut Montaigne. “The conservatives share with the reformist camp the observation of a dramatic situation for the economy and the social situation of the country”.

On the US and EU blacklist

The Iranian president-elect’s past and his ideological profile will weigh heavily on his relations with Western countries, which could keep him at bay. In 1988, Ebrahim Raïssi participated, as deputy prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, in the committee which sentenced to death nearly 5,000 political prisoners. More recently, he was involved in the crackdown on anti-government protests in 2009 and 2019.

Ebrahim Raïssi appears as such, on the list of Iranian officials sanctioned by the United States and the European Union. « To reduce Raïssi to a fanatic is to miss out on the most important element of his political personality: his opportunism ”, nuance Sajjad Safaei, researcher at the German Max-Planck Institute, in an essay published on the Foreign Policy site. “He is a man driven above all by a deep devotion to the acquisition of power rather than a fanatical adherence to ideology.”

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L’alliancebetween Ebrahim Raïssi and the Revolutionary Guards announces, in any case, a hard line on human rights and the Iranian ballistic program. In addition, even if an agreement is reached in Vienna on nuclear power in the coming weeks, the new president will not, like his predecessor, bet on an economic rapprochement with European countries, with investments in the key, but will continue ” Eastern policy ”of Tehran, in particular by developing economic and trade relations with China and Russia.


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