What Ebrahim Raisi's election means for Iran — and the U.S.

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Ebrahim Raisi.
Ebrahim Raisi. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images

Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner favored by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, handily won Saturday's Iranian presidential election, which saw historically low turnout. He'll take over for the more moderate incumbent President Hassan Rouhani in August. That will obviously mean changes at home, but it should also affect the Tehran-Washington relationship.

Domestically, the Crisis Group's Ali Vaez explained to PBS NewsHour that the 82-year-old Khamenei appears to be preparing for his succession, which will be "a very pivotal moment" for Iran. So, he's "empowering a client and trusted ally ... to make sure that transition happens smoothly." Subsequently, Vaez expects there will be more repression "in the short run," but "if the system fails to respond" to Iranians' economic hardship, "I think they're sitting on a ticking time bomb."

Raisi's victory, meanwhile, may actually help solidify the re-establishment of a nuclear pact between the U.S. and Iran, despite Raisi harboring more hostility toward Washington than his predecessor. Vaez and The New York Times contend Khamenei is pulling the strings here and will push Rouhani to finish negotiations in the next few weeks, understanding that getting the U.S. to lift oil sanctions is paramount to Iran's economy bouncing back. But this way, the moderates will take the heat for "capitulating to the West and bear the brunt of popular anger inside Iran if sanctions relief doesn't rescue the nation's stricken economy," the Times notes. And if the sanctions relief does bring about improvement? Well, then Raisi can take credit for the success. Vaez added that it's also not out of the question Raisi's government would be "open to negotiating a follow-on agreement" with the Biden administration. Read more at The New York Times.

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