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Will Raisi’s Election Change Iran’s Relations with the Gulf?

Will Raisi’s Election Change Iran’s Relations with the Gulf?

Wednesday, 23 June, 2021 - 05:00
Ebrahim Raisi. (AFP)

Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi declared on Monday that Tehran values neighboring countries, especially Saudi Arabia.


Speaking at a press conference after winning the elections, he stressed: “We want good relations with all neighboring countries, especially Saudi Arabia.”


Moreover, he said Iran is not opposed to opening embassies with Saudi Arabia or establishing relations with it.


Conservative Iranian media had hailed Raisi’s election as the “birth of a new dawn” in the country, describing turnout as “epic” even though in fact it was the lowest in the history of the republic.


Raisi will be confronted with massive local political, social and economic challenges in a region that is mired in its own problems and complications. Experts predict that Raisi will take Iran further to the right, which will impact the ongoing negotiations in Vienna over its nuclear program.


Kuwaiti academic Dhafer al-Ajami described the Iranian elections as a preparation for the post-Ali Khamenei phase, adding that Raisi was simply a carbon copy of the supreme leader.


In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he noted that Iran has for 40 years been claiming to extend its hand to Gulf, specifically to Saudi Arabia.


They really do not want to hold serious and effective negotiations, but such claims are used to justify some stances, he added.


The Iranian leadership is really not aware of what the Gulf wants, which is that it cease meddling in its affairs, stop exporting the revolution, quit supporting militias and end the malign objectives of the nuclear program, he explained.


If Iran is ready to meet these demands, then that would be good, but its stubbornness has reached the extent of denying the Gulf the right to protect its regional security, Ajami added.


Raisi’s election is not expected to change Iran’s foreign policy, which is firmly controlled by Khamenei.


Senior researcher at the Gulf Research Center Hesham Alghannam said that his election will at least end the duality in statements coming from Tehran.


Talk of inter-Iranian disputes will end with Raisi’s arrival to power and therefore, dealing with him will be clearer and Iran will have less room to maneuver, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.


Moreover, he noted that Raisi cannot claim to be incapable of improving ties with Iran’s neighbors.


Iran’s foreign policy and relations with the regional countries will not change much with his arrival, at least not in the beginning, Alghannam predicted.


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