Iran's New President Inaugurated Amid Tough Security Measures
President Ebrahim Raisi was sworn-in and inaugurated at the Iranian Parliament amid unprecedented security measures on Thursday. Raisi, the former chief justice who won the controversial June 18 election, was certified by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a separatee ceremony on Tuesday. Videos posted on social media showed rows of anti-riot police cars and motorcycles on the streets of Tehran ahead of the ceremony. For the first time, all airports in and around Tehran were closed for the ceremony.
Iran has witnessed intense anti-government protests since mid-July and several mysterious attacks on sensitive military and industrial site since mid-2020.
In his inaugural speech hardline Raisi said "all sanctions" on Iran must be lifted and pledged to support "any diplomatic initiative" that would help lifting of the sanctions. He also promised to present his candidates for cabinet posts to the Parliament within a week. Raisi's presidency holds particular importance as he could be the successor to the 82-year-old Khamenei as supreme leader.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Iraqi President Barham Salih, and European Union's representative Enrique Mora were among top officials participating in the ceremony. Also, present were the Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, head of Hamas' Political Bureau, Deputy Secretary-General of Hezbollah.
As a result of the Covid pandemic and travel restrictions, it's not easy to compare the level of attendance of foreign dignitaries at Raisi's inauguration with his predecessor's, but Iran International TV's Morteza Kazemian pointed out that the presence of the Speaker of the Russian Duma Vyacheslav Viktorovich Volodin, did bear significance. His presence, Kazemian said, demonstrates the importance of a new government in Iran which has more backing from the Revolutionary Guards and will definitely be more aligned with Russia.
Just ahead of Raisi's inauguration Thursday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News that the UK will impose a cost if Raisi chooses offensive policies but stressed that "the door for diplomacy and a batter path forward is equally always ajar". "If they continue down the track of harrying or attacking shipping in the Middle East, if they continue destabilizing activities through their proxies, if they continue to row back from their nuclear commitments under the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], and if they continue to take arbitrarily detainees as we have had with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori, Morad Tahbaz, then we will apply cost, we will hold them to account," Raab said.
The announcement of the presence of EU's representative, Enrique Mora, at the ceremony has become very controversial in the past few days. Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi and others had urged Mora not to participate in Thursday’s presidential inauguration, alleging that his participation legitimized the Iranian regime.
Mohammadi is among those – ranging from US-based activist Masih Alinejad, to Amnesty International − who have accused Raisi of crimes against humanity over his role in a commission that in 1988 oversaw executions of thousands of prisoners. The majority were members of the Mujahideen-e Khalq, an armed opposition group at the time allied to Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, but others were members of various leftist groups.