Former Execution Judge Gaining Support in Iran Presidential Election

Could Iranian President Rouhani be beaten out by a hardliner in Iran’s elections? Illustrative. FEMA/Marty Bahamonde.

In less than two weeks, Iran will elect a new president—and one candidate gaining momentum ahead of the vote was a judge during mass executions of opposition members and leftists. Seyed Ebrahim Raeisi, according to the Guardian, was one of four sharia law judges who served during the mass judicial killings in 1988. The Guardian further quoted an expert who said Raeisi is linked to the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei himself.

And according to the Fars News Agency, Raeisi’s chances of becoming the next Iranian president are looking up. A report last week said he was gaining in polls and pointed to speculation that the Principalist movement could consolidate around him. The Los Angeles Times reported in mid-April that some analysts viewed Raeisi as the preferred candidate by the clerics and military in Iran. Raeisi is one of multiple candidates running against Hassan Rouhani, a purported moderate by Iran’s standards, and the president who was in power for the signing of the Iran nuclear deal with the major world powers.

If Raeisi is elected, that could set up quite the confrontation with the United States. The U.S. has lately been more antagonistic toward Iran under the new Trump Administration, due to Iran’s support for terrorism and other mischief in the Middle East.

In April, U.S. State Department Spokesman Mark Toner noted that the Trump Administration could very well intensify the pressure on Iran in the future following a comprehensive review of the situation underway now.

“Until that review is completed, until we have a direction, a clear direction, on where we want to go with Iran, we’re going to continue on the path that we’ve been, which is making sure that they adhere to the nuclear agreement commitments that they’ve made,” said Toner at the time, in comments published on the State Department’s website.

“But I think going forward, once this review is completed, you could see a change in direction. I think this administration is concerned that Iran is—as I said, its bad behavior in the region has not changed, even though we have the nuclear agreement in place. And so we need to look at ways that we can limit the influence of Iran in the region and limit the influence of its bad behavior.”

And if an even more hardline president is elected on May 19, that bad behavior might just get worse.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, May 3, 2017)

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