The rise of Raisi: On Iran’s new President

The new President should use his clout to push for economic, political reforms in Iran

Mr. Raisi is a controversial figure. The U.S. has accused him of serving in the “death commission” of 1989 that implemented Ayatollah Khomeini’s secret decree to execute thousands of political prisoners. At home, he has presided over a harsh campaign against “corruption”, which critics say had targeted political rivals. And he assumes the presidency at a time when Iran is facing daunting challenges. The revolution seems to be ageing — the country has seen protests in recent years; the push to reform the system from within, a long-time promise of the reformists, has not made much progress and the economy is in a shambles. When Mr. Rouhani won the presidency in 2013, he promised a new beginning. But his attempts to open a new chapter with the West through diplomacy were set back by Donald Trump, and his policies at home were resisted by the conservatives. Mr. Raisi, who has supported reviving the nuclear deal, might also bank on sanctions being removed to reboot the economy. And there is growing discontent in society and desperate calls for reforms and liberties. For now, Iran’s tactical response to these challenges is repression. Mr. Raisi, as President, should understand that repression will not solve any of Iran’s problems. A member of the clerical establishment, he should use his clout and the election victory to push for gradual economic and political reforms.

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