In just under a year, Iran will elect a new president. Coming after the U.S. election this November, there is some hope that the occasion could usher in improved U.S.-Iranian relations.
Yet, given the way Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been narrowing the field of candidates, that seems unlikely.
Khamenei set the scene for the upcoming vote with a manifesto published in February 2019 with the title .The Second Phase of the Revolution.
In it, he reflects on the 40 years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and charts a vision for the next 40. Khamenei appears to understand that, at age 81, he will not remain leader forever, and so he seeks to ensure that his principles outlive him.
The predominant strategy the manifesto puts forth is “javangarayi va javansazi modiriyat-e keshvar” or the “youthfulness and rejuvenation of the country’s management,” through which young supporters “prepare the ground for the formation of a young and pious government.”
In government, this so-called youth-washing project has taken the form of stocking unelected political offices with people who are either younger or more hard-line.
Since 2019, Khamenei has replaced several military elites in the armed forces (Joint Staff), conventional military (Artesh), and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to inject new blood into the veins of the regime.
His old representatives in the state bureaucracy, local governments, and universities have likewise been replaced by a young and even more radical generation.
For example, in March 2019, the ultraconservative hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi stepped in for Sadeq Larijani as chief justice of Iran.
Raisi previously lost to President Hassan Rouhani in Iran’s 2017 presidential election and played a prominent role in the mass execution of thousands of leftist political prisoners as deputy prosecutor general of Tehran in 1988.
After he became the head of Iran’s judiciary, the use of the death penalty in the country has escalated. Since late June, 11 Iranian citizens—three in Tehran and eight in Isfahan—have been sentenced to death for taking part in mass anti-government protests in November 2019. Ali Khamenei
Meanwhile, the Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam, who was accused of fueling anti-government protests through a popular Telegram channel in 2017, received a death sentence last month. He had fled to exile in France before being arrested by Iranian authorities in Iraq.
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