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The predictable elections in Iran

Here is today's foreign policy: Iran holds its presidential elections, Israeli air strikes in the Gaza resume, and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says the country is ready for "dialogue and confrontation" with the US.

Here is today's foreign policy: Iran holds its presidential elections, Israeli air strikes in the Gaza resume, and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says the country is ready for "dialogue and confrontation" with the US.

The predictable elections in Iran

There are presidential elections in Iran today, but no competition. Four candidates, already screened for ideological purity by the country's Guardian Council, are vying for the presidency today, with one – Ebrahim Raisi, the head of justice – widely considered the winner.

Raisi, 60, comes with an indisputable family tree within the Iranian hierarchy. He has served as both Attorney General and Chief Justice and earned a spot on US and EU sanctions lists for his role in sentencing over a thousand dissidents to death in 1988.

Iran business. The fact that negotiations in Vienna on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal and lifting US sanctions are still ongoing could mean an unpleasant start to Raisi's likely presidency. As Alex Vatanka, director of the Iran program at the Middle East Institute, wrote in Foreign Policy yesterday, a deal ahead of election day would have allowed Raisi to hold his future predecessor Hassan Rouhani responsible for all the poor results. The new Iranian president will not take office until August so that there is time for political cover should an agreement fail to meet Tehran's expectations.

The facade is falling. Iran's unique political system usually doesn't leave much room for dissenting opinions, but this choice seems to go further to remove the risk of ideological diversity. "This year's election is the most transparent attempt by hardliners in modern Iranian history not only to disqualify their rivals but to remove their mindset completely from the Iranian political landscape," said Sina Toosi, senior research analyst for the National Iranian American Council, wrote last May in Foreign Policy. Iran's hardliners, Toosi writes, who feel vindicated by the Trump presidency, are now trying to consolidate total power.

Who would like to be Iran's President? As Jay Mens, executive director of the Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum, pointed out in Foreign Policy, the Iranian presidency has been a poisoned chalice to all but one of its seven incumbents – current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali, the stark exception Khamenei. That losing streak could change with the raise of Raisi, who many see as the successor to the 82-year-old front runner. Unlike its predecessors, the presidency can be Raisi's audition for higher office. "Instead of competing with Khamenei, he will be the perfect accomplice in Khamenei's plan to make the Islamic Republic of Iran 'more Islamic' and less of 'Republic'," writes Mens.

What we are following today

Air strikes on Gaza. Israel bombed Gaza late Thursday evening, the second time since a ceasefire agreement with Hamas after an 11-day conflict in May. The attacks came in response to incendiary balloons fired from Gaza, even a response to an Israeli far-right march through the old city of Jerusalem that Palestinian groups viewed as provocative. The Israeli military said it had attacked "military facilities and a missile launch pad" and was ready for "a variety of scenarios, including resumption of hostilities".

DUP riot. Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is looking for new leadership after party leader Edwin Poots resigned on Thursday, just three weeks after taking office. Poots resigned after the party's legislature rejected his decision to run the executive branch of power-sharing in the region. The turmoil comes at an inopportune time for Northern Ireland as disagreements over the implementation of a Brexit deal between the UK and the EU fueled street violence and led US President Joe Biden to issue a rare reprimand to the UK government.

North Korea The North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un made his first direct comments on the Biden government at a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Labor Party on Thursday, the state media reported to KCNA. Kim "stressed the need to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation" with the United States, "in particular, to fully prepare for confrontation in order to protect the dignity of our state and its interests for independent development", explained KCNA. The comments come as US North Korea envoy Sung Kim travels to Seoul on Saturday for three-way talks with Japanese and South Korean officials.

Regional elections in France. France will vote on Sunday in nationwide regional elections, which will be closely monitored for signs of support for the far-right party led by Marine Le Pen ahead of next year's presidential contest. Voters will return for a second round on June 27th.

Armenia is right. Armenians will go to the early elections on Sunday called by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to quell months of unrest over his decision to accept a ceasefire with Azerbaijan, which has ceded Armenian territory. Elections are expected to be tense: a poll conducted last week showed Pashinyan's party to be neck and neck with a rival bloc led by former President Robert Kocharyan. In a March poll, more than 40 percent of respondents said they would not vote.

A Biden-Xi Summit? The White House is considering talks between Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Thursday. "It could be a phone call, it could be a meeting on the sidelines of another international summit, it could be something else," said Sullivan. Italy will host the G-20 summit in October, which could serve as a place for discussion.

A Chinese academic was suspended from his university after advocating polygamy on his private social media account in a case that has divided public opinion. Bao Yinan of the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai wrote that the Chinese authorities should "give university professors special treatment, such as allowing them to have multiple spouses and giving them permanent subsidies." Bao later deleted the post, an action he said under pressure from the university.

Bao is just the latest academic to advocate unorthodox relationship rules this month. In his regular Weibo column, Yew-Kwang Ng, an economics professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, advocated polyandry – or multiple men sharing the same woman – as a solution to China's one-sided relationship between men and women.

That's it for today.

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