A new day has come

August 6, 2021 - 21:24

TEHRAN – As new Iranian President Seyed Ebrahim Raisi assumes office, Iran is widely expected to move in a new direction both domestically and globally. After eight years of ambivalence under Hassan Rouhani, an already revolutionary state appears ready to be revolutionized by Raisi. 

Ayatollah Raisi formally started to discharge his duties as president of Iran on Thursday after taking the oath of office during a swearing-in ceremony held at the Majlis (parliament). Earlier, he was endorsed by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei as president during a ceremony known as “Endorsement” (in Persian: Tanfiz).

Raisi won the presidential election in June by a landslide to become the eighth president of Iran. He will form the 13th government of Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The former chief of the Judiciary campaigned on a platform of what can be called a national salvation government. Drawing on his anti-corruption drive in the Judiciary, Raisi vowed to eradicate corruption in the executive branch. He promised to revive the economy and lift millions out of abject poverty as well as set the country’s foreign policy on the right track based on principles of dignity, expediency, and wisdom. 

During his swearing-in ceremony, Ayatollah Raisi elaborated on his incoming government’s agenda.  Speaking at the inauguration ceremony before dozens of foreign delegations, Raisi put his election win in the broader context of change in Iran’s course of history. “At the beginning of the new century and the beginning of the second step of the revolution, I am very proud to have been honored by the people and with their vote to protect such a heritage,” he said, referring to the start of the century in Iran’s calendar and Ayatollah Khamenei’s proclamation of the Second Step of the Revolution, a strategy outlined by the Leader that determines Iran’s future path for decades to come.

Ayatollah Raisi made it clear that his election to the presidency was another collective effort on the part of the Iranian people to bring about prosperity. The new president himself underlined this effort. “The message of the Iranian people in the June 18 election was the message of change and justice,” he said, noting, “The Iranian nation stood against the East and the West to prove that religious democracy is a new way of governing that can bring independence and freedom, religion and the world, tradition and progress together.”

Ayatollah Raisi pointed out that great Iran is entering a new century in which the “sun of religious democracy” has risen for more than 40 years and is now in the period of excellence and completion of its movement at the beginning of the Second Step.

“The dawn of the Islamic Revolution of Iran marked a new chapter of freedom, political participation and democracy in the history of our country,” he said, according to a readout of his swearing-in speech published by the Iranian presidency’s website. 

Raisi takes office at a time when Iran is moving toward a resuscitation of the economy using domestic capacities as a solution for existing problems after years of Western reneging on their commitments under a 2015 landmark deal between Iran and world powers known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Using domestic capacities was one of the pieces of advice given by the Leader to Raisi during the Endorsement Ceremony. “These days, if you look at the comments, essays and writings, you notice that they focus on the shortcomings and problems. Yes, there are many shortcomings and problems, but the existing capacities are greater in number. There are myriad capacities in the country. We have extraordinary capacities in the area of water, oil, mining, extensive domestic markets, relations with neighbors, and the astonishing talents and enthusiasm of our youth. These are our capacities. Undoubtedly, they can overcome the problems provided that they are identified correctly, worked on and utilized efficiently. This requires round-the-clock and untiring diligence. Surely the utilization of these capacities will help overcome the current shortcomings,” the Leader stated. 

But relying on internal empowerment does not mean a cessation of interaction with the outside world. On the contrary, Raisi underlined his willingness to work with foreign countries and boost Iran’s relations with the world. “The will of the people was independence and resistance to the extravagance of the arrogant and oppressive powers. At the same time, one must be committed to constructive and extensive interaction with the whole world,” he stressed. 

Speaking before dozens of foreign guests, Raisi said, “We use all the tools of national power, including diplomacy and intelligent interaction with the world, to ensure the national interests of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

To this end, the new president voiced his readiness to engage in any meaningful, credible process to lift U.S. sanctions on Iran. “Sanctions against the Iranian nations must be removed and we welcome any diplomatic initiative to bring about this,” Raisi pointed out. 

But he let it be known that sanctions can’t force Iranians into giving up their legitimate rights. “The policy of pressure and sanctions will not cause the Iranian people to give up pursuing their legal rights, including the right to development,” the president said. 

This message of defiance came against a backdrop of increasing pressure by the U.S. and its allies to make Iran agree to a less profitable version of the JCPOA. Iran has called on the U.S. to lift all the sanctions it imposed, reimposed, or relabeled after former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in May 2018. However, the U.S. insistence on preserving part of the sanctions with the purpose of pursuing follow-on negotiations over non-nuclear issues brought the Vienna nuclear negotiations to a near collapse.

Raisi is unlikely to give the U.S. more than what it has already exacted from Iran. If history is any guide, he will likely show the U.S. that there is a new sheriff in town. 

Of course, this is not to say that Raisi will turn his back on cooperation and engagement. On the contrary, the new president seems to be eager and willing to pursue dialogue and relations based on mutual respect.

Raisi extended his hand to Iran’s neighbors and other countries. “I extend a hand of friendship and brotherhood to all countries in the region, especially neighbors, and I warmly shake their hands,” he said. 

The president called the power of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region a security-building factor and said, “Iran's regional capacities support peace and stability in the countries and will be used only to counter the threat of domineering and oppressive powers. The crises of the region must be resolved through real intra-regional dialogue and on the basis of ensuring the rights of nations.”

Ayatollah Raisi stated that the meddling of foreigners in the region not only does not solve any problem, but is the problem itself. He added, “We consider the promotion of relations with neighboring countries as the most important and main priority of our foreign policy and we favor their dignity and excellence. Diplomacy must strengthen the bonds among nations of the region and strengthen their common grounds in the fields of economy, culture, science and technology.”

He pointed out, “The world is changing and the interests of nations depend on understanding the new world and strategic interaction with emerging powers, and a successful foreign policy will be a balanced foreign policy.”

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