The protege of Iran’s supreme leader, Ebrahim Raisi, was sworn in as the country’s new president during a ceremony in parliament on Thursday, an inauguration that completes the hard-liners’ dominance of all branches of government in the Islamic Republic.
The ceremony was attended by the presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan, senior officials from Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Venezuela and South Korea, and Enrique Mora, the European Union official who has coordinated the recent nuclear negotiations in Vienna.
Earlier this week, Israel slammed the decision of the EU to send Mora to the ceremony of Raisi, who has “the blood of thousands of Iranian citizens on his hands,” saying the decision is “shameful, puzzling, and shows poor judgment” and lends legitimacy to Iran’s reign of terror. The ceremony comes a week after Iran attacked an Israeli-operated ship in the Gulf of Oman, killing a Brit and Romanian citizen.
An Israeli diplomat said that Israel has footage of Raisi and other Iranian officials eating cream puffs to celebrate the torture and execution of Iranian dissidents.
A group of opposition and human rights groups from Iran also slammed the decision. “The EU cannot be credible on human rights if it celebrates Ebrahim Raisi as president of Iran,” a statement said.
“The EU is well aware of the fact that this man presided in 1988 and 2019 over the killing and torture of many thousands of people… The EU is also aware that the election of Raisi was a scam.”
The former judiciary chief known for his distrust of the West takes the reins at a tense time. Iran’s indirect talks with the U.S. to salvage Tehran’s landmark 2015 nuclear deal have stalled, as Washington maintains crippling sanctions on the country and regional hostilities simmer.
“The sanctions must be lifted,” Raisi said during his half-hour inauguration speech. “We will support any diplomatic plan that supports this goal.”
Wearing the traditional black turban that identifies him in the Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, Raisi recited the oath of office with his right hand on the Quran.
In his address, Raisi stressed his embrace of diplomacy to lift U.S. sanctions and mend rifts with neighbors, a subtle reference to Sunni rival Saudi Arabia. But he also signaled that Iran seeks to expand its power as a counterbalance to foes across the region.
“Wherever there is oppression and crime in the world, in the heart of Europe, in the U.S., Africa, Yemen, Syria, Palestine … we will stand by the people,” he said, referring to Iran-backed militias like Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. His voice rose with emotion, eliciting a clamor of approval from the audience. “The message of the election was resistance against arrogant powers.”
Raisi, who won a landslide victory in an election that saw the lowest voter turnout in the nation’s history, faces a mountain of problems — what he described on Thursday as “the highest level of hostilities by Iran’s enemies, unjust economic sanctions, widespread psychological warfare and the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Amid ongoing sanctions, Iran is grappling with runaway inflation, diminishing revenues, rolling blackouts and water shortages that have sparked scattered protests. Barred from selling its oil abroad, Iran has seen its economy crumble and its currency crash, hitting ordinary citizens hardest.
Without offering any specific policies, Raisi pledged to resolve the country’s mounting economic crisis, improve the spiraling currency and “empower poor people.”
Raisi, 60, a conservative cleric long cultivated by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has promised to engage with the U.S. But he also has struck a hard-line stance, ruling out negotiations aimed at limiting Iranian missile development and support for regional militias — something the Biden administration wants to address.
The official proceedings in Tehran come just a week after a drone crashed into an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire off the coast of Oman, killing two crew members.
The U.S., Israel and the United Kingdom blamed Iran for the raid and vowed a collective response, with Israel’s defense minister on Thursday even warning the country is ready to strike Iran. Although Tehran denied involvement, the assault escalates a yearslong shadow war targeting commercial shipping in the Mideast and threatens to complicate efforts to revive the nuclear deal.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem & AP)