Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Commentary

Does Iran’s new president signify real change?

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Peter Zeihan

Geopolitical Strategist

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Reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian will become Iran’s first moderate president in almost two decades after he narrowly defeated hardliner Saeed Jalili. The former heart surgeon and health minister campaigned on promises to soften Iran’s conservative policies. He criticized the country’s notorious morality police and called for negotiations over a renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal.

Watch the above video as Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan explains how Iran came to have a reformist leader and cautions that the new president’s authority is limited.


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Excerpted from Peter’s July 11 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Next up on our list of important elections around the globe is the Iranian presidential elections. We’ll be looking at Iran’s new president-elect, Masoud Pezeshkian, and what his victory might mean for the country.

Pezeshkian triumphed over a number of slightly nutty, ultra-conservative, fire-breathing candidates sponsored by the clerical regime (which officially oversees the entire country). This presidential election has also highlighted some of the ongoing issues Iran has faced, especially the economic difficulties caused by U.S. sanctions.

Pezeshkian’s platform follows a more moderate approach than his opponents and predecessors, and suggests a possible shift in domestic policies. As of now, these conversations are focused on smaller issues like the strict enforcement of a dress code for women, but when the majority of the Iranian populace rallies behind something like that … it could mean that something bigger is brewing. It’s far too early to make a call like that, but this is something that I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Everybody, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from a rental car in Kansas City. Today we are going to take a crack at the second piece in our elections series for the week, we got a number of important elections recently. Today we’re gonna cover Iran, where there was a runaway victory for the now President Elect Masood possession him and I apologize for the name. Anyway.
He came in with a strong first place. There’s a two round voting system in Iran. And it’s not really a surprise that he won. There’s any number of candidates who were on the first round, but five of them sponsored by the clerical regime of Iran, you know, that kind of the
slightly nutty, very ultra conservative hate everyone group that runs the country. Anyway, there were five candidates for that, and they were all fire breathers and so having one moderate made sure that he made it to the second round, where he easily defeated his, his opponent in the second round, who was honestly a complete snapback. So no surprise there.
But given away from the tactical political stuff, the situation Ron is in is uncomfortable.
dial back a little bit. If you remember back to the war in Iraq, the United States was very good at overthrowing the Saddam regime, but not very good at making Iraq look like Wisconsin. And so Iranian agents were able to kind of step into the void and agitate the Shia population of Iraq. She is a religion, the Iranians are all Shia, pretty much all of them. And it’s the single largest denomination in Iraq. But Saddam’s government was Sunni. So when the United States basically ripped out the apparatus of the old government and wasn’t quick enough, and putting something else in its place, Iran was basically able to partially take over and still remains very influential there today. Anyway, during this period of the United States, basically going after militants throughout the region, the Shia, the Iranians were able to step in and displace a lot of groups and so a lot of trouble and become very, very powerful throughout the region. But it wasn’t free. And Iran has a financial restriction in that most of its income comes from oil. So if you can target the oil, you can target Iran, and in the long term, long term being matches days or weeks or months or years, but decades, over the long term that really cripples them. And so during this period in the last 20 years, yes, Iran made a lot of forays, but it generated a lot of expenses. And when Saudi Arabia was roused to combat Iran, if you know Iran was never going to win a game of checkbook diplomacy with a country that exports like a fifth as much oil. And then under Obama, the United States put some of the strictest sanctions that have ever been developed against Iran as a way to pressure them into a nuclear deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And to Donald Trump, who did away with the deal, but kept the sanctions in place. Well, folks, the sanctions have now been in place for the better part of the last decade. And we are seeing some very real impact on the standard of living in Iran, because they just haven’t been able to export the volume of oil that is necessary to sustain a meaningful standard of living within Iran, much less for them to cause trouble throughout the region. I don’t mean to suggest that Iran has been curtailed or castrated or anything like that. But they’re having a really hard time doing everything that they thought they were going to be able to do. Now, when this happens to you, when you have this sort of economic blindness, you can really follow one of two paths. The first path they tried a few years ago, they elected a hardliner guy by the name of Rossi that everybody hated. Oh, my God, he was a mean, dude. Even within the clerical establishment, people thought he was too tough. And then he died in a helicopter crash a few weeks ago. And so the new guy possess Kim obika. Right,
is basically trying the other approach, maybe a little bit of compromise, maybe a little bit more constructive relationship with the West. Now, I don’t want anyone to get too overexcited here. I mean, yes, elections matter in Iran, but only within a certain framework. The most powerful person in Iran is not the President that is the supreme leader who remains a bag of snakes, and basically is responsible for all the things that you think of when you think of Iran, the clerical theocracy, the oppression of minorities and women in the youth, the general seating of militant groups throughout the Middle East, none of that has changed. And now the new guy is not challenging much of that at all, especially in foreign policy positions. Keon has come out and said that he still supports Iran having the nuclear program still supports a hardline in negotiations with the West he still supports the Houthis in their on again off again conflict with Israeli citizens support Hamas against Israel, he still supports militancy throughout the region, but he’s doing it with a bunch of different tone that suggests there might be a little bit of room for compromise here or there. I mean, don’t count hitting chickens until this actually happens. But there’s at least a change in mood. If if if there is going to be meaningful difference.
See, if it is important it’s going to happen at home. Possession has been very, very clear that he thinks that the clerical authorities or law enforcement arm shouldn’t beat women if they show their hair. And from a geopolitical point of view, that’s kind of a nothing burger under normal circumstances. But you now have the majority of the population of Iran siding with the president against the people with the guns. And that can go in a lot of really interesting directions. Keep in mind that you’ve got 10,000 clerics 10,000 mullahs that basically rule Iran, it’s a deep bench. I’m not suggesting here we’re going to have a revolution. But if the guy who’s nominally a top who was chosen by the people, once a different approach to living your life in the country, and the people who have been calling the shots to this point, are on the opposite side of that, well, things can get very, very interesting. So I don’t want to overplay this. I’m not suggesting we’re gonna have a revolution, but for the first time in 40 years, there seems to be a split within the leadership of Iran on what Iran should be at home.
And that’s how change starts. Okay, that’s it for a run. Tomorrow we’ll deal with France.

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