With the election of Raisi, it’s time to get real with Iran

If you thought that Iran could not get more extreme, think again.  It just did.  Remember the name Ebrahim Raisi.  He is the new leader of Iran. 

His ambitions were clear for decades.  He marks himself out from the rest by wearing a black turban.  This is significant.  It is a personal statement, as well as a commitment of faith, in which he declares himself (wrongly) as a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad.  In other words, his words, his orders, come from Allah himself. 

Photo credit: khameni.ir.

He is omnipotent.

He was there, as a student, demanding the overthrow of the Shah of Persia in 1979 that led to the Islamic Revolution.

After the Revolution, he joined the judiciary and became the deputy prosecutor in Tehran at the age of 25. 

In that capacity, he sat as one of four judges in a secret tribunal set up in 1988 that became known as the "Death Committee."

This committee of judges retried political prisoners who had already been sentenced, but instead of commuting their sentences, they decreed death on what human rights groups have described as thousands of men and women.

After execution, they were buried in unmarked graves. 

After Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, considered a moderate, complained about the mass executions, calling them "the biggest crime in the history of the Islamic Republic," he lost his position as the successor of Khomeini.  That went to hardliner Ayatollah Khamenei, who became supreme leader after Khomeini's death.

Raisi went on to serve as the chief prosecutor of Tehran before becoming the State Inspectorate Organization head and later in 2014 the Iranian prosecutor general. 

In 2016, he became the custodian of Iran's most influential religious foundations, the Astan-e Quds-e Razavi, the wealthiest organization in Iran, a multi-billion-dollar domestic empire, with holdings in real estate, construction, agriculture, energy, telecommunications, and financial services, according to the United States.

Although, as judiciary chief, he reduced the death sentences of people sentenced for drug-related crimes, the number of executed political prisoners increased. 

Iran continues to execute more people than any other country except for China.

Despite running on a campaign "to fight poverty, corruption, humiliation and discrimination," the recent election was shadowed by the disqualification by the hardline Guardian Council of several prominent moderate and reformist candidates. 

In protest, the turnout was a low 49%, but Raisi won 62% of the vote, winning eighteen million votes.

This new position as president of Iran places him in a leading position to become the overarching supreme leader of the Islamic Republic when Ayatollah Khamenei dies. 

A 130-page report, written by the London-based human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, Q.C., details how, during the killing spree of Raisi's "Death Commission," people were hung from cranes "four at a time, or in groups of six with ropes hanging from the front of the stage in an assembly hall."

In Israel, a Haaretz analysis called Raisi "An Executioner Fond of the Gallows," pointing out that he preferred hanging to shooting political prisoners because it took longer to die.

Raisi said Iran's ballistic missiles program is "non-negotiable."

The introduction of Raisi as Iranian president should force naïve Western leadership to remove their blinkers and look at Iran as it really is and what its future intentions really are, and to stop pussyfooting around the issue. 

Barry Shaw, senior associate at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

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