benami178_Majid SaeediGetty Images_ebrahimraisi Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Biden's Iranian Opportunity

The election of hardline President Ebrahim Raisi in Iran has raised fears that the country will refuse to negotiate with the West. But with Iran's economy in tatters, and the Sunni Taliban returning to power in neighboring Afghanistan, Iran's leaders have every incentive to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

TEL AVIV – For years, Iranian moderates, such as former President Hassan Rouhani, tried and failed to reach an understanding with the West. Now, a hardliner is in charge. Does President Ebrahim Raisi’s election spell the end of what Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei once called Iran’s “heroic flexibility” in dealing with the West? In the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the question now matters even more.

The answer is yes and no. Raisi is not going to take up the mantle of attempting to reconcile with the West. The ideological confrontation with the United States is central to the Islamic Republic’s fundamentalist identity.

Moreover, both moderates and radicals in Iran still view the strategy of building a proxy-supported Iranian “empire” across the Middle East – advanced by the late military commander Qassem Suleimani, who was assassinated by the US last year – as vital to uphold and advance the Islamic Revolution’s purpose. No true rapprochement is possible between the West and Iran, especially now that hardliners are fully running the show.

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