The Jerusalem Post

Iran’s presidenti­al favorite open to possible nuke deal

- • By YONAH JEREMY BOB

Iran presidenti­al front-runner and Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has embraced the possibilit­y of returning to the 2015 nuclear deal as long as Iran’s interests are met, Iranian media reported this week.

Raisi made the statement in debates leading up to the June 18 presidenti­al election.

Since Raisi, from the hardliner camp, is viewed as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s handpicked candidate, and possible pick to succeed himself, his statement toward the Joint Comprehens­ive Plan of Action (JCPOA) turned heads.

In general, Raisi has slammed President Hassan Rouhani as being too compromisi­ng with the US and the West.

A mark of his campaign has been self-resilience and the “resistance economy” having the ability to overcome US sanctions by producing more critical items for everyday life domestical­ly.

In contrast, his statement earlier this week that he would not oppose a return to the JCPOA in the right circumstan­ces is not that different from Rouhani’s policy.

The main difference between the hardliner and pragmatist camp may simply be a matter of months.

If Rouhani would have preferred a return to the deal before the June 18 Election Day, both to enhance his legacy and to empower another pragmatist candidate, the latest prediction­s are that Raisi and Khamenei prefer that a deal wait until August, when the new president would take office.

Raisi’s somewhat pro-JCPOA statement was also noteworthy as in an earlier debate he had been criticized for underminin­g relations with the West and his response had evaded addressing the JCPOA as an issue head-on.

His follow-up answer in a later debate could signal a clear process to prepare the hardliner base for compromisi­ng with the US in substance, even if the tone will continue to be one of conflict.

During the 2017 election, Raisi made some similar statements moderating his stance that he would abide by the JCPOA despite his and the hardliner’s frequent criticism of talks with the West.

However, in that election Rouhani defeated Raisi, who came in second with 16 million votes, or close to 40% of actual voters.

This time, Khamenei’s Guardian Council disqualifi­ed all viable contenders from rival camps who could have beaten Raisi, including even the current vice president and a former parliament­ary speaker, reportedly to guarantee his victory.

 ?? EBRAHIM RAISI (Ayoub Ghaderi/YJC/WANA) ??
EBRAHIM RAISI (Ayoub Ghaderi/YJC/WANA)

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