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Finally, after all the magic tricks, Khamenei pulled his rabbit (Ibrahim Raeisi) out of the magic hat to put an end to all the ambiguities and rumors about the kind of president he wanted. He had already prepared the grounds and specific scenario for his candidate on April 21. On the one hand, a letter was sent by 220 members of parliament affiliated with Khamenei’s faction, asking Raeisi to run for the presidency in this critical situation to save the country from this situation. On the other hand, he had eliminated potential rivals such as Hassan Khomeini (grandson of Ruhollah Khomeini) by telling him it was better not to run.
However, Raeisi to cover up this appointment and to heat up the sham presidential election has denied his candidacy several times, but finally on May 15th agreed to participate in the show.
This means, Khamenei is in a deadlock and crisis after the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, who was his ideal candidate for the presidency, does not have any other suitable person and is forced to put forward Ibrahim Raeisi, who only two years ago was appointed by Khamenei as the head of the judiciary for a five-year term. Given Khamenei is 82-year-old and his health condition, according to informed observers, it is unlikely for him to live through the end of the next four-year presidency term, and he will have to choose a successor.
Of course, the concept of merging the supreme leader position with the presidency has been discussed among some of the regime’s leaders for some time, and apparently, the selection of Raeisi for the presidency paves the way for this to happen! One of the reasons that Khamenei is currently opposed to JCPOA talks and creates obstacles to strike a deal is his desire for these talks and agreements to be reached during Raeisi ‘s presidency term, so that the success of the talks be accredited to the new president, Raisi.
Ebrahim Raeisi, who ran for president four years ago is hated by the people for his direct involvement in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, most of whom were members and supporters of MEK.
Because of Raeisi’s role in the 1988 massacre, he is referred to among the people as Ayatollah Death. His involvement in the crime was so obvious that even Hassan Rouhani mentioned in his election speech, that Raessi had done nothing but issue death sentences, imprisonment, and torture in the past 38 years.
But since Ibrahim Raeisi was one of Khamenei’s most trusted figures, shortly after his defeat in the previous presidential election in March 2019, Khamenei appointed him as the head of the judiciary, one of the three main positions of power in Iran after the Supreme Leader to close all the gaps in Velayat-e-Faqih system and to remove any opposition by using his legal power and influence to imprison them under various accusations. In a short time, many dissidents who had just criticized Khamenei were sentenced to long prison terms, and many political prisoners and dissidents were executed or repressed. The dramatic increase in verdicts against political and civil activists during his tenure as head of the judiciary indicates a widespread wave of repression of civil society and critics in Iran.
It is good to note that just in the first six months of Ibrahim Raeisi, as the head of the judiciary, his department has issued about1,000 years in prison and 1,500 lashes for civil and political activists. During this period, activists in various fields in separate cases, have been sentenced to at least 1,027 years in prison terms, equivalent to 12,330 months in prison, a 120% increase over the same period last year.
It is noteworthy that Mullahs’ government structure is like the Mafia’s, and they strengthen this poly structure with family ties. For example, the wife of Ibrahim Raeisi is the daughter of Alam al-Huda, the Friday prayer Imam of Mashhad the second largest city in Iran., who was appointed by Khamenei in 2006. And a year later he was elected as a member of the Assembly of Experts. He was also appointed by Khamenei as the representative of the Supreme Leader in Khorasan Razavi province in March 2016, to have full authority in this province. And now his son-in-law is set to take over the presidency and, in the next step, leadership.
But the fundamental question among experts is whether the appointment of Ibrahim Raeisi as president can save the regime from this dangerous situation that many say is on the brink of collapse. In a situation where most people are planning to boycott the elections because of their hatred of the regime, and with slogans such as “We have heard too many lies, we will not vote anymore” or “Our vote is overthrown”, they have already expressed their views on not only the presidency but in relation to the whole system.
Cyrus Yaqubi is a Research Analyst and Iranian Foreign Affairs Commentator investigating the social issues and economy of the middle east countries in general and Iran in particular.