At a time of tension, the former head of the judiciary is taking the reins. Iran's indirect talks with the U.S. to salvage Tehran's landmark 2015 nuclear deal have stalled, as Washington maintains crippling sanctions on the country and regional hostilities simmer.
Raisi stated that the sanctions must be lifted during his half-hour-long inauguration speech. We will support any diplomatic initiative that supports this goal.
Raisi was wearing a traditional black turban, which identifies him as a Shiite direct descendant from Islam's Prophet Muhammad. He recited the oath with his right hand on Quran.
Raisi spoke out in support of diplomacy to lift U.S. restrictions and repair relations with neighboring countries. This subtle reference was made to Sunni rival Saudi Arabia. He also indicated that Iran wants to increase its power to counterbalance foes in the region.
He said that "Wherever there's oppression or crime in the world, in Europe's heart, in the U.S.A, Africa, Yemen Syria, Palestine, etc.... we will stand with the people." He was referring to Iran-backed militias such as the Houthi rebels in Yemen and Lebanon's Hezbollah. The audience roared with approval as his voice rose in emotion. "The message of this election was resistance to arrogant power."
Raisi, who won a landslide victory in an election that saw the lowest voter turnout in the nation's history, faces a mountain of problems -- what he described on Thursday as "the highest level of hostilities by Iran's enemies, unjust economic sanctions, widespread psychological warfare and the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic."
Iran faces a host of problems, including runaway inflation, shrinking revenues, rolling blackouts, and water shortages, which are all exacerbated by ongoing sanctions. This has sparked a number of protests. Iran is now prohibited from selling oil abroad and has seen its economy collapse and its currency crash, which has been devastating for ordinary Iranian citizens.
Raisi promised to end the country's economic crisis and improve its spiraling currency, but did not offer any specific policy recommendations.
Trump's 2018 withdrawal from Iran's nuclear agreement has caused Tehran to scrap all restrictions on its nuclear enrichment. Iran now enriches only 63% of uranium, which is a very small step from weapons-grade levels. This compares to the deal's 3.67%. The country also spins far more advanced centrifuges than the accord allows, which is worrying for nuclear nonproliferation experts. Tehran however insists that its program is peaceful.
Raisi, 60 years old, is a conservative cleric who has been cultivated over the decades by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Khamenei. He has pledged to engage with America. He has also taken a strong stance and ruled out any negotiations to limit Iranian missile development or support for regional militias, something that the Biden administration is keen to address.
Official proceedings in Tehran are being held just one week after a drone crashed into an Oman-based oil tanker, killing two crew members.
The United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom all blame Iran for the attack and promised a collective response. Israel's defense minister warned the country on Thursday that it is ready to strike Iran. Although Tehran denies involvement, the attack escalates a long-running shadow war against commercial shipping in the Mideast. It threatens to complicate efforts for reviving the nuclear agreement.
Thursday's inauguration ceremony, scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country, still drew leaders and dignitaries from around the world. Enrique Mora, an official of the European Union who coordinated the recent nuclear negotiations in Vienna, was also present at the event. High-ranking officials from Oman (Qatar, Kuwait, Venezuela, South Korea, and Kuwait attended the event.