Iran has a new president: Azerbaijanian, reforming and committed to peace

08.07.24 12:02

Former health minister, heart surgeon and reformist politician Masoud Pezeshkian won the snap presidential election in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He won 53.7% of the vote in the second round on 5 July. His rival, the conservative Saeed Jalili, won 44.3 per cent of the vote, despite the support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has long been a 'state within a state' in Iran.


The election results can be seen as a clear defeat for the part of the Iranian elite that relies on the IRGC. And such a difference in votes - more than 8 per cent - despite the fact that the IRGC permeates all spheres of society in the Islamic Republic of Iran, shows that the "omnipotence" of this organisation, as well as its focus on war, is beginning to bore the majority of Iranians. The citizens of the country want peace, and they have eloquently demonstrated this through their vote.


Of course, the new Iranian president and those behind him will not be able to quickly remove the IRGC from the political arena.  The new president will have to deal with the IRGC. It is no coincidence that Major General Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), congratulated Massoud Pezeshkian on his victory in Iran's presidential election and expressed the IRGC's readiness to continue working with the country's administration.


However, it is unlikely that the IRGC will now be able to make such provocative demarches against Azerbaijan in Iran, such as the ostentatious "arms shake" and deployment of troops on the northern border at a time when the separatist "Artsakh" still existed, or the terrorist attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Iran on 27 January.


It is known that Masoud Pezeshkian is in favour of normalising relations with Washington and returning to the subject of a "constructive nuclear deal". At a time when it is very likely that the Republicans will return to power in the White House, and even more so with the aggressively anti-Iranian Donald Trump, this position looks like a "safety net" in case the situation in the Middle East deteriorates further.


Unlike the IRGC, a significant part of the sane Iranian elite does not want to see their country dragged into a "great war" with the US and Israel. Nor did the late President Ebrahim Raisi, for all his anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric (for which he may have paid with his life). As for Masoud Pezeshkian, he is also likely to tone down the rhetoric against the US and Israel so as not to provide an unnecessary reason to drag Iran into war.


Masoud Pezeshkian has twice tried to become president of Iran. 12 years ago, he withdrew from the race on his own, and in 2021 his candidacy was not approved by Iran's Guardian Council. So if the highest powers in Iran, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Guardian Council and other structures had wanted to, they could have prevented Pezeshkian from being elected at all. And at the suggestion of the IRGC, they could hold conditional elections and appoint the same Jalili as president. Then the course towards further deterioration of relations with the US and Israel would have become inevitable, and domestic policy would still be based on "Great Persian" nationalism and disregard for the interests of Turkic peoples, which has already become a cause of discontent with the central government in Iranian Azerbaijan.


By allowing Masoud Pezeshkian to take part in the elections, the Iranian authorities have resolved the issue of the legitimacy of the elections and the unity of the country. It is no secret that in the previous elections, the Azerbaijani and Turkish population of the Islamic Republic of Iran simply stopped going to the polls. People simply realised that the needs and aspirations of the country's Turkic population were unlikely to be heard. As a result, the elections that secured Ebrahim Raisi's second term were generally 'conditional', with the lowest turnout in history.


But in the 2024 elections, Masoud Pezeshkian, who emphasised his Turkic origins, mobilised Iranian Azeris and other Turkic peoples in the country to support him.  As a result, voter turnout was very high compared to previous elections, and the president of Iran became a truly "national" voter, elected by Turks, Persians, Kurds and other representatives of the peoples of the Islamic Republic of Iran.


It should be borne in mind that in 2021 the situation in the Middle East will not be as explosive as it is now, after the outbreak of the war in Gaza and Israel's explicit threats to take military action against the pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement in Lebanon (which is supported by the IRGC). And the real issue will be Iran's involvement in the war and large-scale Israeli attacks on Iran, which the US may join.


The fact that the Iranian Guardian Council has now given Masoud Pezeshkian the go-ahead to run for the presidency shows that the ruling ayatollahs really need a man who will do everything possible to avoid worsening relations with the West or going to war with the US. At the same time, the military cooperation with Russia, which has brought Iran nothing but a loss of reputation, will most likely begin to wind down, especially Iran's participation in the war against Ukraine by supplying its weapons and drones. This, in turn, will push the Kremlin to end this war as soon as possible and to conclude, if not peace, then a lasting ceasefire.


There is little doubt that under Masoud Pezeshkian, Iran's cooperation with Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Turkic countries will be greatly intensified. This includes transit. We can therefore expect an accelerated completion of the Resht-Astara railway, which will connect Iran's ports on the Indian Ocean coast with Azerbaijan, Georgia, the Black Sea and Russia by the shortest rail routes. This factor will mean even greater demand for the deep-water port of Anaklia, which is under construction in Georgia.



George Kvinitadze

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