July 7, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Iranian President Pezeshkian will not open a new chapter for Iran-Israel relations

The Iranian regime is not just the president and President Masoud Pezeshkian will not have much power to recast Iran’s role in the region.
July 7, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Iranian President Pezeshkian will not open a new chapter for Iran-Israel relations

The Iranian regime is not just the president and President Masoud Pezeshkian will not have much power to recast Iran’s role in the region.

Iran’s new president Masoud Pezeshkian won a runoff presidential election on Friday and has become Iran’s ninth president since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Iranian media said that out of 30 million votes, he won more than half – 16 million.

Pezeshkian is 69 years old and a retired heart surgeon. In the West he is being depicted as a reformer, a moderate who brings new “hope” for diplomacy with the Islamic Republic.

There is a proverb here that is worth recalling when hearing stories about another Iranian “reformer.” The motto is “trust, but verify.” In fact, in this case, it’s not even worth trusting. The Iranian regime is more than just the president and he will not have much power to recast Iran’s role in the region. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is like an albatross around the Iranian state, smothering it and using it for its own needs.

The Islamic regime will continue as it always has

What this means is that the Iranian nuclear program will likely continue to advance into a weaponization phase; Iran’s proxies will continue to attack Israel; and Iran will continue to form ties with Russia, China and other countries that oppose the West.

Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Bagheri and Army Commander Maj.-Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi both congratulated Pezeshkian on his victory, Iranian state media reported. These key leaders and their messages show that the armed forces want to work with their new leader.

“General Bagheri also expressed hope that by further strengthening the defense power of Iran’s armed forces, a big step would be taken in establishing the authority, deterrent power, security and defense of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” IRNA state media reported.

It will be worth watching Iran’s acting foreign minister in the days ahead. Ali Bagheri Kani claimed that democracy is a key part of the Islamic Republic. He made the comments while attending a ceremony for the late foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian who died in the same helicopter crash that killed Pezeshkian’s predecessor Ebrahim Raisi.

Kani praised Iran’s recent moves to join BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). This move by Tehran shifts Iran closer to the Russia-China camp and embeds it firmly within the economic orbit of Moscow and Beijing. A major believer in Iran’s shift toward China, Kani recently attended a summit of the SCO in Kazakhstan where he reiterated how China was now a major player in Asia.

It’s possible that Pezeshkian may want to shift back towards some balance with the West. For instance, the appearance of former Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif during the campaign shows that there could be an attempt to once against ingratiate Iran’s regime with the West.

This might actually be worse than the previous regime, because when Iran plays both sides, it caters to a naïve view in the West that the Iranian regime can be reasoned with. In fact, the regime has brought chaos and destabilization to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and other countries. It has backed the Hamas war on Israel and is trying to flood the West Bank with weapons.

Iran’s IRGC is so embedded in Iranian regional policies that threaten Israel and the region, that the new Iranian president will not likely be able to change them even if he wants to. It has been clear in the past that the Iranian president is often divorced from decision making, such as regarding attacks on commercial ships at sea by the regime which began back in 2019.

The kinds of threats that Iran exports, such as moving missiles and drones to its allies in the region and also moving technological know-how will not change. In addition, groups like Hezbollah are so powerful now that they don’t need Iran’s backing as much as in the past.

Iran has invested for decades in building up its network of groups in Iraq and more recently in Syria and Yemen, to the point that these groups are now powerhouses on their own. The new Iranian president will therefore likely only bring bad things to the region, rather than any kind of reform.

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Issues:

Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Politics and Economy