July 6, 2024

NIAC Statement on Pezeshkian’s Victory

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement on the news that Masoud Pezeshkian has prevailed in the run-off election over Saeed Jalili, and will be the next President of Iran:

برای خواندن این مطلب به فارسی اینجا را کلیک کنید

Masoud Pezeshkian, the reformist former Health Minister and parliamentarian, will be Iran’s next President, prevailing over the hardline Saeed Jalili in the second round run-off.

Pezeshkian succeeded in bringing more voters to the polls who had sat out the first round than Jalili gained from any consolidation of the conservative vote. But while the turnout for the run-off outpaced the first round, roughly half of all Iranians stayed home — signaling continued frustration and disillusionment with the status quo.

Pezeshkian has emphasized unity with the Supreme Leader and other major power centers in Iran. If they are open to a shift from the policies of Raisi, this could set up Pezeshkian for success on both domestic and foreign fronts. However, if they are inflexible, Pezeshkian has effectively vowed to be a voice against some of the existing policies of Iran’s unelected institutions, like the harsh enforcement of mandatory hijab laws and internet restrictions. Whether and how he pursues these promises could set him up for a clash with those power centers, or lead him to disappoint the millions of Iranians who turned out to make him President.

On foreign relations, an Iranian President will once again enter office with a mandate to pursue sanctions-lifting and a nuclear deal with the United States. Yet, unlike 2013, there are major obstacles to reaching a new agreement – within the Islamic Republic’s power centers, amid a horrific war in Gaza and continued risks that it spills across borders to regional war, and within the United States, which is set to hold its own Presidential elections in a few short months with Donald Trump leading the polls. Pezeshkian and his team will have their work cut out for them in pursuing the goal of sanctions lifting that he advocated on the campaign trail in this combustible environment.

For the United States, despite domestic electoral uncertainty, Pezeshkian appears to be a viable negotiating partner. It is worth testing whether or not he is empowered to negotiate, and what national security goals can be achieved by engaging in new rounds of diplomacy. The benefits of past negotiating rounds – for American security, and for the Iranian people – have been clear. The United States tabled the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran and war with Iran over its nuclear program with the 2015 accord, while Iranians benefited economically including from single-digit inflation. Trump’s ripping up of the accord reversed these gains, but cannot erase the truth that the accord was to the benefit of all parties. Moreover, as several human rights defenders argued in casting a vote for Pezeshkian, it is only the authoritarians in Iran who benefit from sanctions and the looming threat of war. 

We appreciate the tough choices that the Iranian people made in this restricted election, including the many who cast their votes for Pezeshkian as well as those who urged a boycott given their understandable frustrations. Iran now has a new President, and potentially someone who will be more responsive to people’s aspirations than his predecessor. Now is a time for him to try to deliver on his commitments, and for the United States to test the rhetoric he displayed on the campaign.


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