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International sanctions, issues of the presidential election in Iran

Photo: Atta Kenare Agence France-Presse Reformer Massoud Pezeshkian, presidential candidate in Iran, promotes the establishment of “constructive relations” with Washington and European capitals in order to “get Iran out of its isolation.”

Ahmad Parhizi – Agence France-Presse and Jérôme Rivet – Agence France-Presse in Tehran

Published at 12:45 p.m.

  • Middle East

Should Iran be reconciled with Western countries ? The question is shaking up the June 28 presidential campaign against a backdrop of economic slump accentuated by severe American sanctions.

Some of the six candidates in the vote to replace President Ebrahim Raïssi, killed in a helicopter accident in May, are making the lifting of these sanctions a priority if they were elected .

This election is being held while Western countries, led by the United States, continue to strengthen their sanctions regimes against Tehran by calling into question the continuation of its nuclear program, its support for Hamas in the war against Israel and Russia opposed to Ukraine or “violations” of human rights.

“We have been under sanctions for 45 years. Why ? They hit people hard,” laments Hamid Habibi, a trader in the capital’s bazaar, who would like the next president to “seek to reestablish ties with the United States and European countries.”< /p>

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Fayyaz Zahed, professor of international relations at the University of Tehran, points out that the question of sanctions was at the heart of the first two televised debates of the campaign, which focused on the economy. “Almost all the candidates explained that they had devastating effects” and that it was therefore “crucial to resolve this problem to alleviate the suffering of the people.”

Moderate former President Hassan Rouhani recently estimated that sanctions cost the country some “$100 billion a year, directly or indirectly.”

“If we could lift sanctions, Iranians could live comfortably,” summarized Massoud Pezeshkian, the only one of the six candidates representing the reformist camp.

Iran's 85 million people face very high inflation of around 40%, high unemployment and the record depreciation of the rial, the national currency, against the dollar.

The nuclear question

Experts point out that, whoever it is, the next president will have a limited room for maneuver because the national strategy is set by the Supreme Guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, aged 85, 35 of whom have been at the head of the Islamic Republic.

However, if he “earns the trust” of the Guide and the most influential institutions, such as the Revolutionary Guards, “the president can influence the foreign policy” of the country, underlines Fayyaz Zahed.

A supporter of firmness towards the West, Ayatollah Khamenei on Saturday called on the six candidates to avoid any declaration that would be likely to “please the enemy”.

One of the three favorites, Saïd Jalili, former ultraconservative nuclear negotiator, pleaded for the continuation of this anti-Western policy by declaring that “the international community was not made up of two or three Western countries”.< /p>

For him, Iran must on the contrary strengthen its ties with China on the economic level, with Russia in the field of defense, but also with Arab countries, the Saudi rival in the lead.

Saïd Jalili has positioned himself as “the most inflexible candidate diplomatically”, underlines expert Fayyaz Zahed.

More pragmatic, conservative candidate Mohamad Bagher Ghalibaf believes that Iran should only negotiate with Western countries if it has “an economic advantage” to gain, in particular through a lifting of sanctions.

The current President of Parliament also calls for continuing to increase the country's nuclear capabilities, a strategy which is bearing fruit by “forcing the West to negotiate with Iran”.

< p>In contrast, reformer Massoud Pezeshkian promotes the establishment of “constructive relations” with Washington and European capitals in order to “pull Iran out of its isolation.”

In recent days, he has campaigned with Javad Zarif, who had sought to bring Iran closer to the West during his eight years at the head of Iranian diplomacy (2013-2021).

The latter insisted on the positive impact on the economy that the historic international nuclear agreement had in 2015, supposed to guarantee that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons .

The hopes raised in Iran were, however, dashed three years later when Donald Trump ordered the United States to withdraw from the agreement.

Since then, negotiations have stalled and President Joe Biden has maintained the sanctions imposed by his predecessor.

The next Iranian president could be called upon to make crucial decisions on this issue as some officials discuss a possible evolution of the country's nuclear doctrine towards an assumed military vocation.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116