As the regime-anointed candidate in Iran’s presidential election charade last Friday, Ebrahim Raisi’s victory was thoroughly expected. Even so, it managed to be jarring. It’s not every day a country chooses a man accused of crimes against humanity for such a powerful post, with all signs pointing to Raisi acquiring even greater, unrivaled power in the near future.
For the Iranian people, Raisi’s presidency, followed by his projected ascension to the post of supreme leader once the ailing 83-year-old Ali Khamenei dies, promises to bring even more repression. For Iran’s neighbors, Western powers—particularly the United States—and the rest of the world, the question is how the election will affect the outlook for resuscitating the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
After the Trump administration withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in 2018, Iran accelerated its output of enriched uranium, increased its stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and enriched some uranium to a level of purity much closer to that required for nuclear weapons production. The Biden administration is conducting indirect talks to reinstate the original agreement and return Iran to compliance with its terms. He has also promised to secure a follow-up deal that is “longer and stronger” than the one negotiated by the Obama administration and the so-called P5+1, comprising the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Iran has stated it is only willing to return to compliance with the JCPOA once the U.S. does so itself, by removing unilateral sanctions the Trump administration reinstated in violation of the agreement, along with other new, Trump-era, non-nuclear sanctions such as those connected to terrorism.