New Supreme Leader in Iran: Implications for Israel, Nuclear Weapons, and Conflict

Iran’s Guardian Council’s Disqualification of Pragmatists Ensures Conflict with Israel: What’s Next?

Iran’s Guardian Council’s decision has disqualified virtually all “pragmatists,” including former president Hassan Rouhani, from public office. This decision makes the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran’s proxies a virtual certainty, and war more likely than ever.

On March 1, parliamentary elections and elections for the 88-member, eight-year term Assembly of Experts are at stake. The Assembly of Experts is expected to select the next Supreme Leader. Given that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is nearly 85 and has been sick repeatedly, the next Supreme Leader selection is significant.

Khamenei experimented with Iranian presidents who were reformists and pragmatists, and from 1997-2005 and again from 2013-2021, he allowed for some political flexibility. However, by 2020, Khamenei had decided to cut anyone other than hardliners out of future power. This led to disqualifying reformists and pragmatists from running for public office.

The 2021 presidential election saw Ebrahim Raisi win with the disqualifications of top Iranian officials from running for office, which brought voter turnout down to record lows. The voter turnout was significantly lower than the previous election, and Raisi’s win was due to the coerced drop in voter turnout.

Under Raisi’s hardliners, Iran has pushed for enriching record levels of uranium, and the development of nuclear weaponry has been accelerated. This hardline approach has led to an increase in uranium enrichment and further confrontation with the US and Israel.

With all branches of government controlled by hardliners, and Raisi possibly in place to succeed Khamenei, a continuation of hostility and violence from Iran against Israel and the US is expected for the foreseeable future.