Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric and protege of Iran’s supreme leader, is set to become the country’s president Tuesday as a new security crisis swirls in the vital shipping routes of the Persian Gulf and doubts build over the survival of the troubled 2015 nuclear deal. Raisi, 60, will begin his tenure after he’s officially confirmed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a televised ceremony, ending the eight-year rule of Hassan Rouhani, a more moderate figure who saw his ambition to build ties with the West flounder. He’s expected to present his proposed cabinet on Aug. 5.
Iran's new president, Ebrahim Raisi, said on Tuesday his government will take steps to lift "tyrannical" sanctions imposed by the United States. After winning the endorsement of Iran’s supreme leader for his presidency at a ceremony in Tehran, hardline Shi'ite cleric Raisi said he will improve the economy, devastated by reimposed U.S. sanctions since 2018 when Washington abandoned Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six powers.
The United States is confident Iran attacked an Israeli-managed tanker last week, killing two, the top U.S. diplomat said on Monday, predicting a "collective response" but saying he did not think the incident necessarily signaled anything about Iran's incoming President Ebrahim Raisi. "We have seen a series of actions taken by Iran over many months, including against shipping. So I am not sure that this particular action is anything new or augurs anything one way or another for the new government," Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters. Raisi takes office on Thursday.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Iran’s demand that the 2015 nuclear deal be modified to circumscribe a future U.S. president’s ability to withdraw unilaterally may be a blessing in disguise (“Iran’s Latest Nuclear Demand,” Review & Outlook, July 26). The proposal would amount to a serious modification of the original agreement. As such, it signals a desire by Iran not simply to return to “mutual compliance” with the accord, but to renegotiate it. While the Biden administration should not—and, constitutionally, likely cannot—agree to Tehran’s proposal, it should welcome the chance to renegotiate rather than simply re-enter the nuclear deal.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Once a protégé of Iran’s supreme leader is sworn in as president this week, hard-liners will control all parts of the Islamic Republic’s civilian government. Given the brinkmanship over its accelerating nuclear program and the West alleging that Tehran launched a fatal drone attack targeting an oil tanker linked to an Israeli billionaire last week, one might think that had already happened. Iran’s inauguration of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday represents the last stop in a slow slide from the hopes that the 2015 nuclear deal would open the Islamic Republic to the West.
On one of his final days in office, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday acknowledged an Israeli operation carried out by Mossad agents who broke into a secret warehouse outside Tehran and retrieved a huge trove of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear files. “The secrets that the Zionists came and took from inside [the country], published and showed to [former US president Donald] Trump [led him] to abandon the [nuclear] agreement,” Rouhani told government officials at a meeting covered by the official state Fars news agency.
The United States and Britain said on Sunday they would work with their allies to respond to the attack on the Mercer Street, a Liberian-flagged, Japanese-owned petroleum product tanker managed by Israeli-owned Zodiac Maritime. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the US is “consulting with governments inside the region and beyond on an appropriate response, which will be forthcoming.” As tension rises between the US and Iran, could that affect the dynamic of the Iran nuclear talks?
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Food-safety and veterinary-products company Neogen Corp. said it received an administrative subpoena from the U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions enforcer related to business dealings involving parties located in Iran. The Lansing, Mich.-based company, which disclosed the subpoena in its annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, said it received the subpoena from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in March 2020. Neogen said in the filing that it is cooperating with OFAC’s investigation and that an internal investigation found the company had provided genomic-testing services to an unrelated U.S.-based entity that was engaged in veterinary activities involving an Iranian party.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Mohammad Mosaed, an Iranian journalist who fled Iran last year to escape a prison sentence, says he is in the United States. Writing on Twitter, Mosaed said he arrived six months after crossing the border into Turkey during winter, which he said made his escape more difficult. Mosaed said he was grateful to the U.S. administration for allowing him into the country. He added that he aims to remain independent and will not become the employee of any government, including the United States'.
Hundreds of Iranian Americans whose relatives were executed more than three decades ago following sham trials involving new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took part in a rally in Washington on Monday. They were calling on the US and its allies to hold him accountable for his crimes against humanity. A number of current and former officials involved in US foreign policy spoke during the rally, at which Arab News was present. They expressed their support for the demonstrators, adding their voices to the calls for justice and for the Iranian regime to be held accountable for its actions.
As Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi prepares to assume his responsibilities on Thursday, protests in Ahwaz over the ongoing water crisis and other problems have expanded across the country. Protests have spread to Tehran, Karaj, Tabriz, Esfahan, Bushehr, Lorestan and Kermanshah, among other governorates, reflecting the growing public frustration and deep social tensions in Iran. These simmering tensions will have repercussions domestically and overseas in the upcoming period.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
By adapting the Obama-era policy of “strategic silence” in the wake of the selection of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s enforcer Ebrahim Raisi as president of Iran, the Biden administration is tacitly endorsing his appointment, presumably in hopes of persuading him to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or nuclear deal, after his inauguration in August. The ballooning social protests across Iran, however, suggest that a return to “strategic silence” at this critical juncture could be as great a missed opportunity this summer as it was twelve years ago when the then Obama administration studiedly ignored the greatest threat to the Islamic Republic since its inception in 1979.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran on Monday reported more than 37,000 new coronavirus infections, the country’s single-day record so far in the pandemic, state media reported. State TV said health workers registered 37,189 new COVID-19 cases since Sunday — surpassing the previous daily record of 34,951 infections reported on Tuesday. Also, there were 411 deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll in the pandemic to 91,407 — the highest in the Middle East. The new surge has been fueled by the contagious delta variant, and Iranian authorities say less than 40% of the population follows measures such as wearing face masks and social distancing.
Pari Rahmanian and her daughters were sitting down to dinner in her brother’s third-floor apartment in south Tehran when the ground began to move. “There was just this rumbling sound. I raced to my daughters to get them out. I was sure it was an earthquake,” Rahmanian, 47, said. When she got to the hallway she realized what actually was happening: The building was settling in shifting soil. “I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Rahmanian said of the structure, which authorities deemed unsafe to reenter. “It’s no joke. You lose everything you have in seconds.”
Iran’s new president takes office Thursday amid a cacophony of demands from his countrymen: some for water, others for better salaries and all for Covid-19 vaccines. But even if Ebrahim Raisi hears these pleas, he will not heed them. Throughout his long climb up the ranks of the Islamic Republic, Raisi has only ever listened to one voice — that of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. This won’t change with his elevation to the presidency, the latest of a long string of promotions the hardline cleric has received by the courtesy of his master.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
Israel’s defense minister said Monday that Iran’s alleged attack on a merchant ship in the Arabian Sea last week was “a stepping-up of the escalation” of hostilities by Iran, and called for international action. Benny Gantz addressed Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and said the drone strike on the Mercer Street that left two crew members dead — one from the United Kingdom and one from Romania — was “in violation of international law and human morality.” He charged that Iran was behind at least five attacks on international shipping in the last year.
The EU is legitimizing Iranian aggression by sending its deputy foreign affairs chief to the inauguration of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the Israeli Foreign Ministry stated on Monday. Enrique Mora, the EU coordinator in Iran nuclear talks and deputy secretary-general of the European External Action Services, the EU's foreign ministry, plans to attend Raisi's inauguration. The event is set to take place less than a week after Iran attacked an Israeli-managed ship of the coast of Oman, killing a citizen of Romania - an EU member state, and a British national.
IRAQ & IRAN
Now comes the hard part for U.S. President Joe Biden’s Iraq policy. At the White House last week, he told Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi that U.S. combat troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by year’s end. At the same time, U.S. forces serving in noncombat roles—training, advising, and providing intelligence to Iraq’s security forces—would remain. A big deal? Not really. The fact is that the vast majority of the 2,500 U.S. service members in Iraq have been in noncombat roles for more than a year.
An Iranian state actor spent years pretending to be someone called "Marcella Flores" in an attempt to spy on a U.S. aerospace defense contractor. A new report from cybersecurity company Proofpoint identified the actor as part of state-sponsored espionage against defense "industrial base" contractors doing work related to the Middle East. Identified as TA456, the state actor first established a relationship with an employee at a subsidiary of the defense contractor. Then, in early June 2021, attempted to "capitalize on this relationship" by sending the employee malware as part of an "ongoing email communication chain," according to Proofpoint.
According to a Sky News report based on classified documents allegedly from Iran, a cyber attack could sink a cargo ship or blow up a fuel pump at a gas station. The Sky News report also details how satellite devices are used by the shipping industry globally and how a computer-based system controls lighting, heating, and ventilation in smart buildings worldwide. According to a security source with knowledge of five research documents, the 57-page collection was gathered by an offensive cyber unit called Shahid Kaveh, part of Iran’s terrorist-linked Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).