What factors explain the transformation in Tehran’s strategic thinking and behavior, and what will be the trajectory under the new president?
Ali Alfoneh is a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. He is a political scientist by training and the originator of the theory of transformation of the Islamic Republic into a military dictatorship. Alfoneh first put forward the theory in the spring 2006 edition of Udenrigs, journal of The Danish Foreign Policy Society. In the United States since 2007, Alfoneh advanced the theory in a series of essays published by the American Enterprise Institute culminating in Iran Unveiled: How the Revolutionary Guards are Transforming Iran from Theocracy into Military Dictatorship published by AEI Press in April 2013. He is also the author of Political Succession in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Demise of the Clergy and the Rise of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (2020).
Long rumored to be the favorite to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ebrahim Raisi will use the presidency as a steppingstone.
By narrowing the range of choice, Iran’s supreme leader and the Guardian Council effectively eliminate competition and reduce electoral participation, increasing the chances of their favorite candidate: Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi.
Presidential Elections in Iran: Procedures, Candidates, and the Persistent Clout of Key Institutions
Most speculation about the candidates and outcome of Iran’s upcoming presidential election appears premature, and assessments about potential impact on U.S.-Iranian relations seem exaggerated.
The lifting of the arms embargo is not likely to result in an Iranian buying spree. But, the Islamic Republic’s arms exports in the post-embargo era may prove as significant as its potential procurements.
None of Iran’s leadership hopefuls can seize power without IRGC support, and any future leader of the Islamic Republic will be beholden to the IRGC.
The normalization of relations with Israel provides another grievance Tehran can use to mobilize Bahrain’s Shias against their rulers.
Authors of articles published by Imam Hussein University of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps see the real challenges the regime is facing from the unprivileged slumdwellers and the politicized middle class and its grievances.
The Islamic Republic has yet to realize taking such a posture toward its Arab neighbors further encourages them to align with Iran’s adversaries.