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Iran: Negotiations and Elections

Iran: Negotiations and Elections

Friday, 4 June, 2021 - 09:15

At the end of the fifth round of negotiations on the Iranian nuclear deal in Vienna between the P4+1 countries and Iran, the parties to the deal hadn’t concluded an agreement. But they preferred not to admit this round’s failure and chose to spread the rumor of a positive climate.

For its part, Iranian, negotiating under the pressure of the presidential elections and the regime’s need for an achievement to gift to the president who had been carefully selected and practically crowned before the elections, rushed to create the impression that it is close to signing a new nuclear agreement without softening its firm stances. The chief Iranian negotiator, Abbas Araqchi, stressed that “differences have reached a point where everyone can see that they are not insurmountable.”

In Vienna, Tehran suggested that the parties to the agreement had managed to overcome significant obstacles and that those that remain can be resolved, and reaching an agreement that satisfies all sides has become possible… This Iranian position was buttressed by Russia’s position, and statements made by Enrique Mora, the European chief coordinator of the talks, after discussions concluded a few days ago.

Mora said: “I am quite sure that there will be a final agreement. ... I think we are on the right track, and we will get an agreement.” However, Washington, as the party primarily concerned with the negotiations, was strangely quiet, which could be explained both ways, negative and positive.

Based on this optimistic atmosphere, the negotiating delegations in Vienna packed their bags and decided to return to their countries for further consultations. They set the tenth of this month as a tentative date for their return to the Austrian capital to start off a new round of negotiations, the sixth and maybe the last, per the participating European bodies.

The new round begins eight days before the scheduled inauguration of conservative hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi as president of the Islamic Republic, which means it is likely for the announcement of his victory to coincide with the announcement that a new nuclear deal had been reached or that a modified version (changed such that Washington’s prestige isn’t undermined and Iran is satisfied) of the previous agreement had been resurrected.

What is beyond doubt is that if the two events do coincide, the Iranian regime will exploit this fact after the elections, as it has an interest in the new president being credited with the agreement’s implications, especially its impact on economic and living conditions, which worry the regime.

It is betting on rehabilitating the image of the overwhelmingly likely next president Ebrahim Raisi and rebuilding trust between the people and the regime after sanctions are lifted. It considers lifting sanctions to be the achievement that can materialize the fastest after the Vienna talks succeed and that this will reflect directly on the domestic situation, with the future president being credited with all of this, regardless of his ideological background, how he ascended to power and voter turnout.

In practice, the Iranian regime is pushing to link the negotiations with the elections; that is, linking foreign and domestic affairs to its benefit, especially given that it is fighting to keep its inner circle in order, a battle whose main slogan is “maintaining the nature of the regime and safeguarding its future,” a goal it hopes to achieve by linking the elections to the negotiations whose fruits it wants to pick. It is betting on the material benefits and massive commercial contracts that a deal would bring about being enough to get the blood moving in the regime’s veins again, internally and externally, providing its presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi with the tools to manage the transition period.

Despite the atmosphere of cautious optimism, which accounts for the possibility of the negotiations being extended, with the possibility several new rounds failing to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, the regime is working to ensure that the next president is credited with the agreement, such that it becomes an electoral achievement that precedes the day of the elections. On this basis, the prepackaged elections engineered by the establishment, which chose the winner, maintained its ideological symbolism and put its weight behind the man closest to it and most trusted by it, are in preparation for the establishment and its candidate to benefit from the implications of the negotiations’ success if they succeed and lead the charge of confrontation if they fail.

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