President Pezeshkian – getting to the core of the matter

Zarif and Pezeshkian
Interview with Afshin Sajedi, Legal Advisor at the International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (IOPHR) about the latest presidential selection, the roles of Javad Zarif and Mahmoud Pezeshkian and an into the depth analysis of Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter crash. We now know that the selected president of Iran is Mahmoud Pezeshkian. He is a heart surgeon. One could expect that he will bring soothing to the deeply traumatized heart of the Iranians by truly changing the system. What is your perception of the events in Iran since president Raisi lost his life in the unexpected helicopter crash?

Afshin Sajedi, IOPHR
Afshin Sajedi, IOPHR

Afshin Sajedi: I don’t think we can expect major changes with the arrival of a new president. Usually the analysts in the West are used to analyze the behaviors and the functions of the Islamic regime in Iran but sometimes we have to delve deep into structural layers where these functions and behaviors are inititated.

As I have explained many times before, the structure of the Iranian government is dual: a primary, caliphate structure consisting of fifty institutions and organizations under the control of the leadership, outside the scope of supervision of regulatory bodies and an ostensibly electoral structure that serves as a showcase for the regime. Changing the president means altering the items in the showcase, but this does not necessarily change the core content of the regime.

However, because the external perspective focuses on the showcase, observers might perceive a change and believe that a desired item has been placed in the showcase, leading to misplaced optimism and expectations of significant change.

Regarding Dr. Pezeshkian, I must mention that his competence was previously rejected multiple times by the Guardian Council, one of the fifty institutions under the leadership’s control in the caliphate sector of the state. However, this time, it was approved after the assassination of Raisi in a helicopter crash.

Ebrahim Raisi, deceased in a helicopter crash

This can be interpreted to a hidden agreement between two wings of power in Iran which I think is a result of another macro agreement or even project. Dr. Pezeshkian has multiple times admitted that his presidency was impossible without Khamenei’s intervention. This confession can be interpreted as Khamenei’s direction to Guardian Council to approve Pezeshkian’s competence or even to direct command to Interior Ministry to manipulate the votes to Pezeshkians benefit.

As maybe you have already found on my X account, according to Chat GPT, the possibility of votes being manipulated is 729 bigger than the possibility of not manipulated ones.

Dr. Pezeshkian of course is a heart surgeon but even a surgeon needs permission to exercise the surgery which Dr. Pezeshkian apparently lacks.

Pezeshkian and Zarif Suppose Mr. Pezeshkian is the front man of a future government, what is the role of Mr. Zarif then?

Afshin Sajedi: In my opinion, in this scenario, Mr. Pezeshkian plays the role of a catalyst to bring the main character, Zarif, to the forefront. Of course, too many people now consider Zarif to be a bankrupt diplomat, but he is, nonetheless, a diplomat familiar with negotiation methods.

The previous team, including Mr. Abdullahian, who also died in a helicopter crash, and Mr. Jalili’s team – Mr. Pezeskian’s rival in this presidential race – lacked knowledge in negotiations, diplomacy, and bargaining methods.

In their meetings with Westerns diplomats and officials, they merely read statements about the history of Iran and Islam or presented clichéd and general content.

In this way the questions and requirements of the International Nuclear Agency and Western diplomats and officials remained unanswered and resulted in too many negative condemnation resolutions in the Security Council against Iran during the steering of Iranian foreign policy by these two persons. It is interesting to know that Mr. Jalili the rival of Mr. Pezeshkian, is known inside of Iran as the ‚King of Resolutions“ because of his destructive policy which resulted in global condemnations against Iran. This is one of Khamenei’s motivations (not the only one) to resort to Pezeshkian and Zarif.

Regarding Mr. Zarif, it can be said that at least he knows how to negotiate and can correctly convey messages to the decision-making centers in Tehran and Qom.

You know that the main condition for a threat to be effective is to communicate it to the threatened party. If you are not sure of the reliability of the communication channel, you cannot be sure of the effectiveness of your threat.

From this perspective, it can be said that the choice of Dr. Pezeshkian could lead to a change in relations between Iran and the West.

Raisi’s death Let’s go back to the helicopter crash of Mr. Raisi. Are there new developments?Do we know why Mr. Raisi has perished ?

Afshin Sajedi: The regime’s policy in this case, as in others, is based on secrecy and in a lack of transparency. This is not the first air crash in Iran that the government has tried to cover up without providing any explanation.

There have been numerous air accidents in the past, where prominent individuals and sometimes even government officials have been killed, but the government has never provided a convincing answer.

Since eve of establishment of the Islamic regime in Iran till 2024 more than 130 air crashes have been recorded and none of them has been clarified.

Especially since Ahmadinejad coming in power, by which the IRGC security and intelligence office has been known as the most powerful decision and policy making center in the whole country, the number of air crashes from one or two per year increased to 10 or even more per year.

Regarding the crash of the president’s helicopter, as I mentioned before, four main parties can be identified who have benefited from it.

It is possible to imagine a single project managed by the Biden administration in which each of these interested parties have played their role.

As I previously explained, in the absence of safe communication channels between two sides or countries, hostility can easily escalate, creating a dangerous and volatile situation. The sender of a message or threat must ensure the safety and efficiency of the communication channels to convey their message to the decision-making bodies in Tehran and Qom. During Raisi’s era, the lack of such tools posed a significant problem for global security. This is why they preferred to have a team knowledgeable in dialogue and negotiation techniques. They needed someone who could effectively communicate.

Another reason for this preference is dissatisfaction with both the internal and external structures of the regime being controlled by hardliners. Previously, they believed that the reformists always occupied the “External Face” or electoral bodies and thought the reformists would take action, but they couldn’t due to the hardliners. They never imagined that even the electoral bodies would be controlled by hardliners, leaving no one within the regime to communicate with them. This is why I believe that Western parties, led by the United States, also played a role.

In spite of my previous analyze, now the evidences suggest that Israel could be also an important partner of this project.

The military operation of the Islamic Republic of Iran against Israel on April 14, 2024, which some have called the first direct confrontation between Iran and Israel, was also the largest drone attack and the largest missile attack in the history of Iran. In this operation, more than 300 drones and missiles were fired from Iran towards Israel. Although none of the rockets and warheads managed to pass through the defense of Israel’s Iron Dome, this direct military attack on Israel’s territory was considered by the statesmen and people of this country as an unforgivable sin that the perpetrators should be punished.

Regarding the use of very high technology to down Raisi’s helicopter and the irrational resistance of ruling regime officials to release clarifying information, we can assume that the task of downing of Raisi’s helicopter is assigned to Israel. In this way, apart from revenge, regime officials have also been taught that checking the extent of Israel’s power is very dangerous. So we can assume Israel as the second party in this project.

Clandestine negotiations in Oman

The third party are the reformists themselves. Confidential negotiations were held in Oman before and simultaneously with the helicopter crash, and it can be assumed that the reformists persuaded the Biden administration to strike a deal before Trump’s possible return to power. In this deal, the reformists would do their best to supervise the nuclear and missile programs in exchange for removing regime change from the US agenda. However, the US would need to help them gain a share of power. In this scenario, they would only need Khamenei’s approval.

The fourth party in this project is Khamenei himself and his office. As mentioned earlier, Khamenei was dissatisfied with the performance of the president and his associates during the nuclear negotiations, as the poor performance of Jalili’s team and the leadership team led to the issuance of numerous condemnation resolutions in the Security Council against Iran.

Another motivation for Khamenei’s participation in this project could be his concern about the increasing power of the Russophile faction in Iran. Raisi and his father-in-law, Alam El Hoda, who was becoming one of the most powerful clerics in Iran, were independently communicating with Russia, and their relationship with the Kremlin was deeper than expected. Recently, a long-term strategic agreement between Raisi and Putin was supposed to be signed, which would have effectively turned Iran into a Russian colony.

Khamenei’s third motive for participating in this project can be understood through his concern about the succession plan. Raisi was also the deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts, which is responsible for appointing Khamenei’s successor. He was killed on his way back to Tehran to participate in the Assembly of Experts meeting. If he had attended this meeting, he would likely have been elected chairman, which would have forever blocked the path of Mojtaba Khamenei, the eldest son of Iran’s leader, from becoming the successor.

Raisi had forty-five years of experience working in the institutions of the Islamic government. He was one of the executors of the 1988 killings of dissidents, during which between six and thirty thousand people were executed. Raisi had a strong reputation in the country’s security system. In contrast, Mojtaba Khamenei has almost no executive experience, and this succession would be challenging for him with Raisi’s presence.

And finally, Khamenei’s compulsion to participate in this project should be described as his fourth motivation. He likely had no other choice but to choose between a military conflict with the West, which could lead to the bombing of nuclear and military centers, including his workplace, and the possibility of a public revolt that could overthrow his government, or participation in this project. He chose the latter because war is not his option.

Ahmad Alam-ol Hoda is the Friday imam of Mashhad and representative of Khorasan Razavi province in the Assembly of Experts. He is one of the leading „Russophiles“ in Iran.

War is the option of Russophiles, who want to involve Iran in the hope of Russia’s military support for an all-out conflict that may even lead to a global war. Therefore, all parties involved in this project concluded that its implementation and elimination of Raisi is the best way to ensure their safety and maintain global security.

Of course what can be said for certain is that the Russian government was completely surprised and somewhat angry in this situation.

A few hours after the helicopter downing, Putin first held a meeting with government members and then summoned the Iranian ambassador at eleven o’clock at night. Iranian media reported that Putin’s concern prompted this late-night summons. However, typically such concerns are communicated by middle officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not the head of the government.

Summoning the Iranian ambassador to the Kremlin at that hour of the night undoubtedly showed the Kremlin’s anger at the implementation of such an operation.

Putin’s and Russian officials‘ anger from this surprise can be seen from the cancellation of negotiations related to the strategic agreement between the two countries until Iran’s foreign policy apparatus is clarified.

Immediately after the first round of the presidential elections and a few hours before the announcement of the second-round results, Khamenei sent the vice president to Putin. He assured him in an official message that the relations between Iran and Russia will remain strategic and that there will be no change in Iran’s general approach towards Russia with the change of president.

Of course, I believe that Putin is a vengeful person and will eventually avenge the death of Raisi. It is possible that the same fate that happened to Prigozhin will happen to Pezeshkian. He must be very careful!, July, 2024


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