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Iran’s President Struggles To Define His Discourse And End Impasse

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Some political observers in Iran define President Ebrahim Raisi’s government as a copycat, based on remnants of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s populist narrative.

However, as noted in a Khabar Online report, also carried by a few other Iranian websites, the Raisi administration at times appears to be a blend of Ahmadinejad’s ideas with his reformist predecessor Mohammad Khatami’s slogans. The part of the Raisi administration’s discourse which is reminiscent of President Khatami’s rhetoric is Raisi’s frequent allusions to the ideas of Justice and Republic, Khabar Online wrote.

Apart from his political and economic failures, the report maintained that Raisi’s attempt to create a new or copied discourse has also failed, though not entirely due to his actions. The idea of a Republic in Iran has been torpedoed by the government’s intervention in elections and its undermining of the role of elected bodies such as the parliament and the Assembly of Experts that was supposed to control the Supreme Leader’s behavior.

Nonetheless, the Strategic Studies Center, a research body that operates under the President’s Office published a magazine at the end of the first year of Raisi’s presidency to outline his discourse. However, the publication did not grab any attention, as all discussions at the time and later were focused on the government’s inefficiency and its failure to sort out domestic and foreign problems.

The publication, according to Khabar Online, aimed to emulate what political scientists and economists had compiled to define President Khatami’s discourse. However, some of Iranian academics said openly that real progress under President Raisi was way below the level of the discourse. Nonetheless, what Raisi’s men put together also used Ahmadinejad’s populist rhetoric.

Political commentator in Tehran Nasser Imani

Conservative analyst Nasser Imani pointed out that what Raisi’s aides assembled as his discourse does not align with his behavior and his government’s performance. Imani pointed out that the government’s overall performance, marked by the infiltration of fake revolutionaries in the government. Imani even pointed out the “paradoxical conflict” between Raisi’s performance and the ideas of justice and republican principles. This, he said makes Raisi’s statements hard to believe.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Rouydad24, Morteza Ezzati, an academic at the Teachers Training University in Tehran remarked that “The Raisi administration is incapable of detecting the country’s problems and making decisions to solve them.” Referring to the ill-defined ideals and discourse of the administration, Ezzati added, “No ideal is significant enough for which the government could put pressure on the people.”

Ezzati further suggested that infiltrators who do not wish for the country’s current situation to improve exacerbate the situation to prevent an agreement between Iran and the West that could help end the country’s economic crisis. He views the presence of infiltrators in the government as the most likely explanation for the current political impasse and economic crisis.

Explaining the impact of ultraconservatives on Iranian society and the country’s international relations, Ezzati gave the example of advocates of BRICS as a substitute for a nuclear deal with West. He pointed out, “BRICS is an agreement between governments, but it cannot reduce the impact of sanctions because sanctions are not imposed by the private sector. With or without BRICS, any entity in China trying to engage in further trade with Iran will inevitably come under US sanctions.”

He reiterated, “The obstacles to trade will be eliminated only with the coming to power of a government in Iran that attaches a high priority to coming to terms with the international order.” On the other hand, he argued that “current decision-makers in Iran cannot make decisions that can overcome the economic impasse by ending the sanctions.”

Ezzati concluded by stating, “Raisi’s government is not capable of advancing a dialogue to secure Iran’s interests because it cannot make decisions. However, under excessive pressure, it may take negotiations seriously.”