Raisi’s Inauguration: Who Came?
Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi waves during his swearing-in ceremony at the parliament in Tehran, Iran, August 5, 2021. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/via REUTERS
Two days after his endorsement by the supreme leader, Ebrahim Raisi completed his inauguration as Iran’s new president on August 5, 2021, with a swearing-in ceremony at the national parliament chamber. Raisi is a divisive choice of president thanks to his role in what Amnesty International called a “‘death commission’ which forcibly disappeared and extra-judicially executed” thousands of political prisoners in 1988. This has led him to be labelled by some media opponents as the “Butcher of Tehran,” so the very question of whether to send a representative to the function was a question of some sensitivity.
Nonetheless, high-level foreign delegates from 73 countries came to the event, including national leaders (Afghanistan, Iraq, Armenia) and half a dozen parliamentary speakers/chair people. Many of these visitors used the opportunity for important behind-the-scenes talks on matters of bilateral interest.
Armenia was represented by its prime minister Nikol Pashinyan who stressed his government’s commitment to strengthen cooperation with Iran. The progress of infrastructure projects, including building the proposed new Armenian north-south highway and improving gas-electricity energy swaps, were discussed.
Embattled Afghanistan sent its president Ashraf Ghani who met Raisi dressed in black jacket over neatly pressed white shalwar-kameez. Their discussion reportedly included ideas on finding a system of inclusive political representation, presumably one in which the resurgent Taliban would have at least some form of input.
The subject of Afghanistan was also part of the discussion with Tajikistan’s representative Mahmadtoir Zokirzoda, chairperson of the lower parliamentary house. His short one-to-one meeting with Raisi also stressed building on deep cultural ties between Iran and Tajikistan. Although the two countries do not directly border each other, Tajikistan’s predominant language is closely related to Persian.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei endorses the presidency of Ebrahim Raisi, August 3, 2021, two days before his inauguration. Image: Khamenei Official Website
From Iraq, both the national president and the president of Iraq’s heavily autonomous Kurdish region were present; Azerbaijan sent a small delegation led by the chairperson of the national assembly, Sahiba Gafarova, while for Russia, it was speaker of the state duma, Vyacheslav Volodin. Turkmenistan, who had a minor diplomatic spat with Tehran last month when it turned back an Iranian airliner for unpaid over-flight fees, was represented by veteran politician Kasymguly Babaev.
The EU sent Enrique Mora, deputy secretary-general of the EEAS (European External Action Service, the union’s main diplomatic body). Facing media criticism from the UK and elsewhere and official disapproval from Israel, the EU pointed out the need to maintain direct contacts with those in power in Tehran, especially when stalled nuclear talks remain in a sensitively delicate state. Mora took the opportunity to meet with Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi who had led previous rounds of nuclear deal talks in Vienna.
Predictably, the US was not represented in Tehran. In Washington, anti-regime Iranian-Americans held a rally to protest Raisi’s election, which many consider unrepresentative.