Iran’s Elections: Black Turbans vs. White Turbans

The presidential elections in Iran, scheduled for May 19, have observers wondering whether the “white turban” incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, will retain his position, or be defeated by his likely contender, the “black turban” mullah, Ebrahim Raisi, known for his key role in the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners.

More importantly, the question on Western minds is how and in what way the Islamic Republic will be affected by either outcome.

The two periods in Iran’s recent history that need to be examined in order to answer this question are that of the tenure of former firebrand President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005 to 2013), who also announced he is running again, and the one that has followed under Rouhani.

At the outset of the Ahmadinejad era, Iran’s GDP (using purchasing power parity) soared beyond $1 trillion, and two of the country’s greatest threats — Iraq under Saddam Hussein and Afghanistan under the Taliban — were eliminated. Both enabled Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to solidify his stronghold.

Midway through this period, however, Iran’s economy fell sharply. Iran became the country with the fifth highest inflation rate in the world. Iran fell into a serious recession, and millions of Iranians found themselves unemployed. All this was going on even before the international community imposed sanctions on the regime in Tehran.

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