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Iran elects reformist president amid the empowerment of conservative and radical politicians in Christian Europe

Iranian President Masoud Pezeshkian.

By Syed Khalique Ahmed

NEW DELHI-At a time when ultra-nationalists and radical conservatives are strengthening in liberal Europe, as evidenced by the performance of far-right political parties and their candidates in the just-concluded French presidential election, and polls conducted for MEPs in all 27 member states of the European Union, Iran has elected a reformist and moderate president.

This despite the fact that Iran is considered a conservative society by European intellectuals and media houses.

Masoud Pezeshkian, 69, repeatedly said during his election campaign that he was a reformist who intended to resume talks with the United States and other countries involved in the Iran nuclear deal, in addition to reforms of his country’s domestic policies.

Although he has announced his full support for the policies of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Pezeshkian is not in favor of imposing dress codes such as headscarves for women. He has left it to the personal choice of individuals. The wearing of headscarves by women in Iran was blown out of proportion by Western media to accuse Iran of human rights abuses under Iran’s former president Ebrahim Raisi who died in a helicopter crash that necessitated holding elections to choose a new president.

Shortly after being elected, Pezeshkian announced that he wanted to resume talks with the United States to revive the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA agreement that Iran signed in 2015 with the United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany focused on Iran limiting its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic and other sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western powers.

Pezeshkian’s declaration was a continuation of the policies of former president Hasan Rouhani, who was also considered moderate. Rouhani was unable to successfully hold talks to revive the JCPOA due to opposition from Iranian conservatives or ultranationalists. Israel also used its influence over the United States not to revive the nuclear deal with Iran because it went against the interest of the Jewish state. Since Pezeshkian belongs to the reformist group and expressed his desire to engage with the West, it was hoped that the West would accept his offer. Pezeshkian had previously faced trouble in Iran for his moderate and reformist views on various issues.

But Pezeshkian, a heart surgeon by training and profession, failed to cut ice with the US and other Western powers. The US has outright rejected his offer of talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

At a press conference, White House National Security Adviser John F. Kirby told the media that there was no chance of the US reviving the Iran nuclear deal that was scrapped by former US President Donald Trump in 2018. Trump claimed that Iran had not kept promises to limit its nuclear program and therefore there was no need to continue the JCPOA.

Iran is not a small country like many European countries that have no resources or anything to offer the world. Most of the smaller European countries are dependent on larger European nations such as Germany, France and Great Britain for their survival. They will face serious employment problems if visa-free movement from one country to another is abolished and their currencies will fall sharply if they are made independent of the euro. They survive and challenge the bigger countries like Iran because all 27 EU countries, or to be precise, Christian Union countries, have their economies linked to each other and therefore they have become very strong economies. As for defense, they have formed NATO, the world’s largest military alliance that threatens any country that goes against the interests of all NATO members. So, the European Union is basically a Christian Khilafat with a common army ready to strike any country perceived as a threat to the common interests of the EU.

As Iran is pitted against the world’s most powerful bloc led by the US, the new Iranian president offered to open talks with the US leading the bloc or the Christian Khilafat. Iran is the world’s second largest producer of petroleum and fuel gas and is very close to Europe, it can supply petroleum gases to Europe at a very low cost after Russia banned the gas supply due to the Ukraine war where the US and European countries provide military and economic aid to Ukraine.

Giving reasons why the US was not ready to resume talks with Iran, Kirby told reporters that Iran supported the axis of resistance in the Middle East – Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen – all of which were engaged in war with Israel, the US’s closest allies in the Middle East. Kirby also raised the issue of Iran’s supply of drones to Russia used in the war against Ukraine. According to Kirby, much has changed about Iran in the Middle East since 2015 when the Obama administration signed the deal and therefore it is not advisable to revive the deal again now. Iran is also reported to be involved in targeting the US bases in Iraq after Iran’s most powerful military commander, General Qasem Soleimani, was killed by a US airstrike in Iraq in 2020.

But what Iran did was in its national interest. If it establishes its proxies in Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen, it has done so to defend itself in the event of an attack by the US, Israel or European powers. But for the US to question Iran’s right to self-defense is a violation of a sovereign nation. The US itself supplies arms and ammunition to Israel, which has been involved in the genocide of Palestinians since last October.

A day after Kirby’s remarks to the media, Iran’s president-elect issued a lengthy letter to Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Husain Nasrallah pledging to continue Iran’s support for the resistance forces in Lebanon. This was a sharp rebuke to the United States.

“The support for resistance is rooted in the fundamental policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the ideals of Imam Khomeini and the guidance of the esteemed leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and will continue with strength,” he wrote in the letter.

This has now dashed all hopes of reconciliation and reducing tension between Iran and the US.

Middle East experts say the United States should have accepted Pezeshkian’s offer and not outright rejected it. Now the ball is fully in the court of the United States to revive the JCPOA agreement with Iran or not.

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