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Iran: Ebrahim Raisi sworn in as president

August 5, 2021

President Ebrahim Raisi has become the new president of Iran during a ceremony broadcast live on TV. The ultraconservative has said he will end sanctions against Iran.

President Raisi wearing a black turban, speaking at a podium during his swearing in ceremony in the Iranian parliament
President Raisi is considered a political newcomer, having served as a judge until being appointed as head of the judiciary in 2019Image: ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi was sworn in as the new president of Iran on Thursday during an inauguration ceremony in the country's parliament.

The 60-year-old is Iran's eighth president since the 1979 revolution. The inauguration came two days after Raisi received the endorsement of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — another hardline conservative cleric who held the position of president during the 80s.

Raisi's victory in June's presidential election was seen as particularly lacking by observers, as many candidates were barred from standing.

What did Raisi say?

Raisi appealed to conservative values and laid out his foreign policy beliefs during his inaugural address.

"I will dedicate myself to the service of the people, the honor of the country, the propagation of religion and morality, and the support of truth and justice," Raisi said during the ceremony.

Raisi also promised to stand up against regional and western adversaries. 

"Wherever there is oppression and crime in the world, in the heart of Europe, in the US, Africa, Syria, Yemen, Palestine," Raisi said. "The message of this election was resistance against arrogant powers."

At the same time, Iran's new president promised to improve relations with other countries in the Middle East.

"I extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood to all countries in the region, especially our neighbors," Raisi said, while adding that there is "no obstacle" to improving strained ties with Saudi Arabia. 

Sanctions and the nuclear deal

The new president has promised to make progress in the lifting of US sanctions that have restricted Iran's dealings with the outside world, especially regarding the vital sale of oil.

He said during the inauguration that the sanctions against Iran must be abolished and that he would welcome any diplomatic measures that would make that happen.

"The sanctions must be lifted," Raisi said in the address. "We will support any diplomatic plan that supports this goal."

But Raisi is currently subject to his own personal sanctions by the US who accuse him of having carried out human rights abuses during his time serving as a judge.

Iran has been negotiating with six major world powers over a possible return to the 2016 nuclear treaty that would see the end of many international sanctions in return for an agreement to limit the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.

Former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018. President Joe Biden has expressed willingness to return to the deal but talks have so far stalled.

Lawmakers stand during the inauguration ceremony in the Iranian parliament
President Raisi is following in the steps of the ultraconservative Ayatollah Khamenei who held the same position from 1981 to 1989Image: Farsnews

Raisi is expected to take a tougher stance in the talks than his predecessor Hassan Rouhani.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Thursday called for Iran to return to nuclear negotiations "soon," while adding that this "process cannot go on indefinitely."

"We hope that Iran seizes the opportunity now to advance diplomatic solutions," Price said in a press conference.

Challenges ahead for the new president

At home, Raisi is seen as a close ally of Ayatollah Khamenei who, in his role as supreme leader, has the final say over every key policy.

However, Iran's relations with the West have soured over the past months. The US, UK and Israel blame Iran for a series of attacks in waters off Iran's coast, including a drone attack last week that left two people dead.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz threatened Iran with military action on Thursday over the drone attack.

Raisi will also have to contend with the widespread problem of water and power shortages that have triggered large-scale protests.

Dissidents fear that Raisi's ascension signifies the return of harsher repression in comparison to the more moderate administration under former President Rouhani.

With Raisi now officially sworn in, Iran's conservative hardliners control all three branches of government — the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.

wd, ab/rs (dpa, AFP, Reuters)