Politicians, Pundits In Iran Not Very Upbeat About Raisi’s Success
Observers on both ends of Iran's political spectrum say they do not have high expectations that President-elect Ebrahim Raisi's cabinet would be able to tackle a legacy of never-ending crises from the Rouhani administration, including power and water shortages, widespread industrial action, a failing national Covid vaccination plan and an ailing economy marked by a nearly 50 percent budget deficit.
Reformist activist Mohammad Ali Abtahi who was President Mohammad Khatami's chief of staff in the late 1990s and early 2000s told Khabar Online website that he cannot foresee an extraordinary cabinet. "My guess is that the entire cabinet is going to come from within the Principlist camp and from among Raisi's supporters."
He added that the new administration's Achilles' heel will be opposition inside Iran to negotiations with the United States and Washington’s terms for reaching an agreement with Iran. He added that "Raisi's toughest mission during his first 100 days in office would be shaping his foreign policy."
Abtahi continued that "all the economists and politicians in Iran understand that the key to the normalization of the economy is foreign policy. Although this is a difficult task, I guess Raisi is going to face less challenges than the current administration."
He went on to say that "Raisi is probably going to have a young cabinet. I am not pessimistic about what they can do, but they should know that the most serious problems will emerge after their first year in office."
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) former lawmaker Ardeshir Nourian expressed concern over the make up of Raisi’s cabinet, based on ongoing rumors about hardliner politician Saeed Jalili as future head of the Supreme Council of National Security and his former aide Ali Bagheri as Foreign Minister.
Bagheri who is a hardliner and a relative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was Jalili’s right hand man in the failed nuclear negotiations during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Nourian said that Jalili's tough stances as an ultraconservative, particularly his non-compromising ideas about the 2015 nuclear deal are inconsistent with the new administration's need for a non-militant foreign policy that would facilitate a deal with the west and lead to the lifting of US sanctions.
Nourian said most Principlists currently oppose the idea of appointing Jalili as the head of Supreme Council of National Security. He added that conservatives are utterly worried about the men he might have to choose as his national security chief and foreign minister.
Even in less challenging times, there have always been problems between the foreign ministry and the security council secretary over the nuclear issue and relations with the West. During the past decade, the nuclear issue has changed hands between the foreign ministry and the Supreme Council of National Security several times depending on what direction Khamenei wanted the negotiations to proceed.
So far indications of a positive change in foreign policy under Raisi has been manifested in inviting a Saudi delegation to take part at his inauguration ceremony; probably a sign of rapprochement between the two regional political rivals. But whether this kind of moderate stance can be seen in Raisi's policy regarding the nuclear issue will depend over and above everything else on his relations with Khamenei.
Meanwhile, Nourian said in an interview with Khabar Online that if Raisi decides not to opt for a more moderate stance on the nuclear issue, and at the same time, does not want to damage Iran's economy beyond the current crisis, his way out would be to resort to a difficult and painful surgical operation that will inevitably spill blood. However, he did not elaborate further. This could be a hint at reforming the economy, cutting subsidies and taking away privileges from insiders.