„It is often suggested that the most consequential barrier to Iranian pragmatism is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Once the elderly Khamenei passes from the scene, the argument goes, his successors will embrace prevailing international norms. The sunsetting restrictions of the nuclear deal need not be of concern, for a revamped Islamist regime will find global integration too tempting to discard for the sake of nuclear arms.
The only problem with such expectations is that the candidate Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards are grooming to ascend to the post of supreme leader is one of the most reactionary members of Iran’s ruling elite. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s probable next supreme leader, could be the only person in the Islamic Republic who could cause people to miss Khamenei.
Raisi is 56 years old and, like Khamenei, hails from the city of Mashhad. After a stint in the seminary, he has spent his entire career in the Islamic Republic’s enforcement arm, serving as prosecutor general, head of the General Inspection Office and lead prosecutor of the Special Court of the Clergy, which is responsible for disciplining mullahs who stray from the official line. In one of his most notorious acts, he served as a member of the ‚Death Commission‘ that, in the summer of 1988, oversaw the massacre of thousands of political prisoners on trumped-up charges. (…)
President Hassan Rouhani may be a subject of U.S. fascination and hopes of a moderate regime, but he is a bystander in this important power play. Khamenei and the Guards appreciate that the next supreme leader will assume power in a precarious time. This leader has to share their penchant for conspiracy theories, demonstrate a contempt for the West and be prepared to shed blood on behalf of the regime. The next supreme leader has to not only believe in the theocracy’s mission of repression but also have been an integral part of that machinery. No one in the Islamic Republic embodies these attributes more than Raisi. He seems to be the right man for the right time.“
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