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What to take away from new Iranian president's debut

Ebrihim Raisi came out swinging at his first press conference, indicating new challenges ahead for Washington-Tehran diplomacy.

Analysis | Middle East

Iran's president-elect Ebrahim Raisi adopted a tough tone on foreign policy in his first press conference today, declaring that Iran’s proxy armies and ballistic missiles are not up for negotiation, and that he won’t meet with President Biden.

But there are still few signs that his presidency will bring about any changes to Iran's current red lines in regards to JCPOA renewal. Outside these red lines, however, things will likely get tougher, with ultra-conservative Raisi’s election.

Iran has long maintained that neither its regional presence nor its ballistic missiles are up for negotiation. Nor did President Rouhani agree to meet with Barack Obama or Donald Trump. In that sense, Raisi's position is not new.

Nevertheless, Raisi's orientation will likely make U.S.-Iran diplomacy more challenging. While Iran has rejected diplomacy on its missiles, negotiations on missile proliferation have been a theoretical possibility. 

The Rouhani government maintained that the JCPOA was the floor, not the ceiling of diplomacy with the United States. Under Raisi, Iran may de-prioritize diplomacy with Washington, and focus instead on an Iranian pivot-to-Asia. As such, the JCPOA may become both the floor and the ceiling under Raisi, much to the chagrin of the Biden administration who strongly believe that the JCPOA cannot endure unless it is made "longer and stronger."

But Raisi's election has not changed U.S. national interest. It is still pivotal to U.S. security that Iran's pathways to a bomb are blocked. Trump has proved that there is no alternative to the JCPOA for achieving that goal — regardless of the name of the President in Iran.

Ebrahim Raisi Banner is hung in June 2021 ahead of recent elections. (Farzad Frames/Shutterstock)
Analysis | Middle East
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