Home News Hopes for diplomatic openness rise after new Iranian president takes office

Hopes for diplomatic openness rise after new Iranian president takes office


With the election of reformist candidate Massoud Pezeshkian as president, Iran’s authoritarian foreign policy could soften and even usher in new diplomatic openings, current and former officials and experts say.

Pezeshkian, a cardiologist, member of parliament and former health minister, has little direct experience in foreign policy. But his promise to empower Iran’s most elite and global diplomats to carry out his foreign agenda has raised hopes for improved relations with the West.

Dennis B. Ross, a longtime Middle East negotiator who served as a special assistant to President Barack Obama, said Pezeshkian “represents a more pragmatic, less confrontational posture both internally and externally.”

However, Ross noted that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei “will do his best to limit” Pezeshkian’s international agenda.

The Iranian president’s powers are mostly limited to domestic affairs. Khamenei is Iran’s top political and religious official and is responsible for making all major policies, especially on foreign affairs and Iran’s nuclear program.

Another major force in the Iranian system is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which oversees all military affairs in Iran. The Guards are closely tied to the Supreme Leader and they decide when and how to use military force, whether it’s unleashing its proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen or threatening Israel.

Iran has adopted an increasingly assertive foreign policy in recent years, a trend that is likely to continue under Pezeshkian, diplomats and analysts say. That includes consolidating alliances with other authoritarian states — Iran has attacked Ukraine by supplying drones and missiles to Russia — and portraying itself as a force to be reckoned with, both in the Middle East and the West, despite domestic unrest and a slumping economy.

“Iranian Resistance axis “Iran’s policy has been so remarkably successful that it’s hard to imagine anyone trying to undermine a policy that has allowed Tehran to flex its muscle with a degree of impunity,” said Ray Takih, an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. In the analysis it was written As the election approaches.

Analysts say the president’s greatest potential international influence is in shaping the world’s view of Iran’s policies, largely through the diplomats he selects. In this respect, Pezeshkian stands in stark contrast to his arch-rival, anti-Western ultraconservative Saeed Jalili., Very serious.

During the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Jalili had been a staunch opponent of a deal with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. Instead, he pushed for enriching uranium to weapons-grade levels. Experts at the Stimson Center write In a June analysis.

“His approach has led to Iran’s isolation,” said Ali Vaz, Iran director at the International Crisis Group. “He doesn’t believe in the value of dealing with the West.”

Under Pezeshkian’s leadership, he said, “I think the chances of a diplomatic breakthrough will increase.”

Pezeshkian said he was determined to develop a policy of international engagement and supported a detente with the West to end sanctions. He said he wanted to establish communication with most other governments in the world (except Israel), but he also warned against over-emphasis on alliances with Russia and China. This, Vaz said, is “because they can exploit Iran” and further isolate Iran globally.

“If we want to work on the basis of this policy, we must have good relations with everyone and build good relations with everyone on the basis of dignity and interests,” Mr. Pezeshkian said in May. “The more we improve our diplomatic relations, the closer we are to the above policy, but the more tensions increase, the further we deviate from this policy and the situation worsens.”

Vaz said Pezeshkian has not offered any specific foreign policy proposals and has been quite forthcoming about his lack of international experience. But his campaign’s chief foreign policy adviser is former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who brokered a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015. Zarif is a savvy English-speaking diplomat who has lived in the United States, but at home hardliners deride him as a fake American.

A key test of Iran’s interest in diplomacy with the West is whether it will respond to efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, an issue complicated by the candidacy of former President Donald J. Trump.

The deal is designed to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb. Technically due next year.but Almost non-existent Iran has been in turmoil since Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on the United States. That has prompted Iran to speed up its uranium enrichment process, and experts say it may now be able to produce fuel for three or more nuclear bombs within days or weeks.

Iran has long insisted its nuclear program is peaceful and says it is prohibited from building or using nuclear weapons under a 2003 fatwa issued by Khamenei. U.S. officials say there is no evidence Iran is currently working to weaponize near-bomb-grade uranium, but Israelis argue such efforts do occur under the guise of university research.

Catherine Ashton, a British diplomat who was overseeing the nuclear talks as EU foreign policy chief when the interim deal was reached in 2013, and who worked closely with Jalili and Zarif at the negotiating table, said Jalili seemed most concerned with “keeping the talks going while making sure there was no real progress or outcome.”

Zarif, on the other hand, has “a deeper understanding of the United States and Europe and is determined to secure Iran’s future in the region,” Ms. Ashton said.

Khamenei has warned Iranians not to elect a president who could be seen as too open to the West, especially the U.S. Diplomats also point to Iran’s warming transactional ties with Russia over the past decade after years of mistrust and disagreements as helping Iran cope with continued international isolation.

The Gaza war has heightened tensions between the United States and Iranian-backed forces in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, reducing the likelihood of a new deal between Washington and Tehran. Stimson Center Expert Wrote.

go through Israel attacks Iranian embassy In April, Iran launched an attack in Syria that killed several Iranian commanders. In retaliation, Tehran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel, most of which were intercepted. It marked a serious escalation in tensions between the two foes and is likely to prompt Iran to ensure it has a stronger deterrent.

The Iranians are aware, however, that the United States is determined to prevent a wider conflict in the Middle East, and messages have been passed between the two governments through back channels highlighting the dangers.

A Prisoner exchange Last year’s nuclear deal between the two countries raised hopes for further diplomatic cooperation, as did indirect talks on the nuclear program. But Iran is now focused on how — or if — Trump will deal with it if he wins re-election in November. Iranian politicians generally believe.

Negotiator Ross said Iran’s new president will have some wiggle room in making government decisions to adjust the balance between “pragmatism and adherence to the ideological norms set by the supreme leader.”

But Khamenei’s words and actions can only go so far in Pezeshkian’s foreign policy, especially when it comes to dealing with the U.S. Khamenei has set clear boundaries. Even on the 2015 nuclear deal, Ross said, the supreme leader “kept his distance and was ready to say ‘I told you so’ when Trump walked away from it.”

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