With hardliner Raisi likely to be Prez, women’s freedom in Iran may get hit: Israeli expert

As an Iran-expert at one of the most important security institute in Israel and the Middle East, Dr. Raz Zimmt’s views on Iran, its domestic and foreign policies, are keenly followed by the strategic and political community globally.

Here are excerpts of an exclusive interview of Zimmt to IANS, held forth on the likely scenarios to unfold after the Iran elections held on June 18.

With Iran facing tough US economic sanctions and the Iranians trying to restore their nuclear deal of 2015 and the country’s Supreme Spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s dictum being the last word, pollsters and opinion poll agencies say that the voting percentage is expected to be only 42. This could be a Presidential election with the least voter turnout ever since the Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1979.

Q: What outcome can be expected of the Iranian elections held on June 18?

A: The Iranian elections have been very very unexpected. We all remember the surprises we had when reformist leader Mohammed Hatami won in 1997, when Mahmoud Ahmadinajad won in 2005, and another surprise when Hassan Rouhani won in 2013.

However, we have to say that due to the mass disqualifications of high-ranking Iranian officials, especially former speaker of the “Majlis” Ali Larijani, I can say that it will take a miracle for anyone other than the hardliner judge, Ebrahimi Raisi to win.

It is very clear that the Supreme Leader and the regime want no one other than Raisi to win the elections that is why they have disqualified a lot of leaders who would have posed a challenge to him.

Three other presidential candidates have also withdrawn from the fray and the former Governor of the Central Bank of Iran, Abdolnasser Hametti has a chance of getting some votes from the reformists but is very unlikely for him to win.

Q: Will Iran change its policy if the present opposition comes to power?

A: Let me make it clear that I wouldn’t call it opposition, Ebrahim Raisi is not a member of the opposition, he is a member of the judiciary and an integral part of the Iranian regime.

It’s a pragmatic coalition of hardliners and regarding policy change, the bottom line is that there won’t be any major policy changes. However, in domestic policy, it will be the more hardline position for the women in Iran and more Islamisation will come into being.

The economic policy may change a bit as Rouhani adopted a more liberal policy but Raisi will promote “Resistance” economy or an Economy not much dependent on the West.

As far as foreign policy is concerned, Iran’s foreign policy is not decided by the President but by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as the revolutionary guards and the National Security Council of Iran. Ultimately there will not be much of a change in policy owing to a change in the President.

Q: Is the Supreme Spiritual Leader Khamenei more determinant in Iran than an elected government?

A: Yes certainly. He is the major decision-maker in Iran. Of course, he doesn’t make decisions himself, he has the Supreme Advisory Council, there are other power centres in Iran, including the Clerical establishment, the Revolutionary Guards. Overall I can say that the President of Iran or the government cannot contradict the strategy adopted by Khamenei. The policies of Iran will be decided by this Shia cleric, Khamenei.

The President of Iran implements the strategy adopted by the Supreme Leader Khamenei and the supreme national security council, as well as the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Q: Iran and Israel were good friends four decades ago. Any possibilities of such a bonhomie returning?

A: As long as Iran continues with the Khamenei regime which is obsessed with the anti-Israeli views and actions, I don’t think that there ever can be a friendship between Iran and Israel.

The Iranian position towards Israel which refuses to even recognize the right of Israel to exist has been a major part of Iran’s official ideology. It continues to support Palestine Islamic organizations like Hezbollah with arms and ammunition and its continued actions of entrenching Syria militarily as well as developing its nuclear capabilities show that it is totally against Israel.

More than that most, of the decision-makers are for annihilating Israel. As far as this regime which continues to support anti-Israeli forces continues, I don’t think that there would be any major changes in Iran’s policy towards Israel.

(Dr. Raz Zimmt is Iran Expert in Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Tel Aviv, Israel)