Iran Sends a Message to Biden

Iranian president-elect Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, June 18.


wana news agency/Reuters

The Islamic Republic of Iran isn’t a real democracy. But the result of Friday’s presidential election still reveals important truths about the government that the U.S. and Europe are trying to appease on nuclear weapons.

Ebrahim Raisi,

the country’s chief justice, won the presidency with about 62% of the vote, according to preliminary results published Saturday. Sometimes discussed as a potential successor to Supreme Leader

Ali Khamenei

—who wields the real power in Iran, particularly over foreign affairs—Mr. Raisi had the race wrapped up before the polls opened.

The Guardian Council, Iran’s election watchdog, has long barred candidates not to the Supreme Leader’s liking. But past races have been competitive and even unpredictable, giving Iranians a small voice in deciding their future. Approved candidates are always loyal to the Islamic Republic and its revolutionary ideology. But some, like lame-duck President

Hassan Rouhani,

spoke the language of moderation and reform even as they followed the Khamenei line.

Iranians understand they live in a dictatorship but have often voted in high numbers to choose their least bad option. Initial results suggest this year’s race had turnout around 50%—down from more than 70% four years ago and the lowest of any vote since 1979. Millions decided to boycott this year’s election as the country’s already small spectrum of permissible views grew even smaller.

Last month the Guardian Council culled dozens of candidates, including many ostensible centrists or reformers. Of the seven candidates approved to run, three dropped out shortly before the contest—paving the way for Mr. Raisi, who is typically described as a hard-liner or ultraconservative cleric.

In 1988 Mr. Raisi facilitated the extrajudicial execution of thousands of dissidents. He later called the killings “one of the proud achievements of the system.” In 2009, during the Green Revolution after a stolen election, he served as deputy chief justice when peaceful protestors were prosecuted and sometimes given death sentences.

In 2019 the Trump Administration imposed sanctions on Mr. Raisi over the myriad human-rights violations committed during his rise through the Iranian legal system. Will the Biden Administration, which has been negotiating a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, lift sanctions on the president-elect?

Defenders of the nuclear accord argue that by leaving the deal

Donald Trump

weakened reformers and empowered men like Mr. Raisi. But conservative clerics have had ultimate power in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Mr. Khamenei supported the accord because it is favorable to the regime. It offers tens of billions of dollars in financial aid and trade revenue while merely delaying the day it can build a bomb.

“We will be committed to the JCPOA as an agreement that was approved by the Supreme Leader,” Mr. Raisi said this month, referring to the nuclear deal’s official name.

The folly of the


and now


administrations is believing that the leaders in Tehran want Iran to be a normal country. They don’t. They run a government that wants to spread its religious revolution to the rest of the world by whatever means possible. Mr. Raisi’s ascension shouts that reality from the minaret, not that the Biden Administration wants to hear it.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8