The ‘Butcher’ of Iran and the JCPOA
JNS.org – It was the not the Iranian people who chose their new president, Ebrahim Raisi; it was Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has been in power since 1989 and holds every sliver of authority.
While Khamenei tried to make previous elections look half-democratic, this time, he and his Shi’ite clerics didn’t care about what the world thought or what their people did. They wanted Raisi, and they were going to appoint him.
In any case, most of the Iranian public didn’t bother to vote. There was no point.
From Tehran’s perspective, Raisi is the right man to lead the Islamic Republic and advance its military nuclear program. He is entirely committed to the project, and comes with an impressive and compelling CV that includes extremism, ruthlessness and mass murder—perfect for a regime that plans on moving to phase two in the geopolitical game of cat and mouse.
His selection sends a strong and uncompromising message to what Iran perceives as a weak Western world, more concerned about gender and transgender equality than global threats.
The international community should be very concerned. It should at least take its head out of the sand to see that Iran’s quest for ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads will not be halted.
News outlets have been describing Raisi as a “hardliner.” But that’s almost a compliment for a murderous religious fascist who shows no mercy to his people.
He will never tolerate any dissent or alternative narrative, and really believes that he is now all powerful, outranked only by the Supreme Leader, for now.
The new president earned his notoriety as a torturer and hangman during his service in many roles in Iran’s judiciary system. Until his election last week, he was essentially the head of a committee of four that, in the late 1980s, sentenced thousands upon thousands of “dissidents” to death.
This was at a time when the regime was tightening its grip on the populace, during and after the negative developments of Iran’s war against Iraq. And Raisi, as chief of the judiciary, sentenced to death any citizen—husband, wife, father, mother, son or daughter—who expressed dissatisfaction with the regime. That’s how he came to be called “The Butcher.”
Even Amnesty International, which normally doesn’t interfere in Iranian affairs, raised the issue at the time. But it made no difference. Raisi, of course, rejected all criticism and described himself as a “defender of human rights.”
The new president is also extremely ambitious, and it is rumored that he believes he will succeed Ali Khamenei as supreme leader. In the meantime, however, his task is to wrest the country from its dire economic situation—due to international sanctions—which is causing the Iranian people financial suffering, in addition to their plight of living under a cruel, barbaric regime.
Even the P5 + 1 countries (China, Russia, United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany) don’t know what to do. The most pressing question today is whether the US will lead a slow return to the disastrous 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action from which former President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018—a deal that merely delays the Iranian nuclear project, not halt it.
With its economy in shambles, Iran has been pushing for a return to the JCPOA. But Raisi will insist on a lifting of all the sanctions, without committing to abandoning the regime’s nuclear ambitions.
The good news is that his presidency will make it slightly easier for the Israeli government to convince the American administration that it must retain all the leverage on future dealings. If it doesn’t do so, any agreement it reaches with Tehran brings Iran closer to obtaining nuclear weapons.
It’s very nice that US President Joe Biden, at the recent G7 summit in Britain, spoke of the need to ensure that Iran never has “the bomb.” He expressed a similar sentiment when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.
But unless the West holds all the leverage by rewriting the nuclear deal with no expiration date, Iran wins. A new agreement must also include an end to Tehran’s ballistic-missile program, a reduction in uranium production and full access for inspectors to all military compounds at any time. Even French President Emmanuel Macron raised the issue of scrapping the so-called “sunset clauses” – the time at which the agreement expires and Iran is free to develop a nuclear weapon.
Raisi’s appointment sends a powerful message to the world: that any negotiations will be on Iran’s terms. Therefore, if there is an agreement that allows Iran to pursue its goal, there may be no other choice but for Israel to act militarily against the nuclear plants.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if it is Israel that saves the world from another dangerous nuclear reactor in the Middle East? First it was Iraq. Then came Syria. In the coming two to three years, it may be Iran.
James J. Marlow is a broadcast journalist previously working for ITN, EuroNews, LBC Radio, Daily Express and a number of Jewish publications. In addition, he runs a Media and Communications / Public Speaking Training Operation and was a consultant at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. Email: [email protected].