As the Trump administration is undergoing a major Iran policy overhaul, senior American officials should comprehend the fact that the upcoming May 19 presidential election will not result in any fundamental — or nonfundamental, for that matter — change in the Iranian regime's behavior.

The so-called election to be held in Iran will be neither free nor fair. However, this development bears major significance due to a series of political, economic and social crises this regime is facing internationally and domestically. Certain is the fact that, after the elections, the regime in Tehran will surface far weaker and more fragmented than before, as two major Iran experts explained recently.

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Committee hosted an online conference last week with former Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi and the NCRI's Foreign Affairs Chairman Mohammad Mohaddessin providing their analysis and views.

Despite the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the international community, Tehran has failed to resolve any of the population's economic or social dilemmas, Terzi explained.

Any collaboration by the West with Tehran, an issue currently under consideration by Washington, will only render further support by Tehran for terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism across the Middle East, as seen in Syria, through the notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

"One should not expect a major shift in Tehran's policies after the elections. It will be a huge folly and total misguided approach by the West to pin any hope on the results of this election," Terzi said.

What is worth understanding is the fact that the presidency in Iran lacks any significant authority and this post is under the heavy influence of the Supreme Leader, as explained by Mohaddessin.

"Any flow of state of affairs in the clerical regime is in the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, his office, and the IRGC … Elections in the clerical regime is power sharing between various factions of the brutal regime. It is also about various factions' share in plundering the Iranian people's wealth," Mohaddessin underscored.

The two leading candidates in Iran's presidential election are Ebrahim Raisi, a confidant of the supreme leader and the head of the powerful so-called Astan Quds Razavi charity foundation, and incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.

Known for his role in the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners, Raisi's "highest credit in the regime is his brutality, particularly in the massacre of the opposition, chiefly the [People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)]," Mohaddessin said.

Rouhani has also presided over 3,000 executions during his tenure as president, far beyond his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is widely known in the West as a hardliner. Ahmadinejad's bid for another term as president was recently rejected by the Guardian Council, a 12-cleric body appointed directly and indirectly by the supreme leader to vet all candidates seeking to run in any Iranian elections.

The West, especially Europe and previous presidential administrations in the United States, has mistakenly sought to distinguish between "moderates" and "hardliners" in Iran's political landscape, oblivious to the reality that such a distinction is fundamentally flawed. "It is time to draw the lessons. There are differences in semantics and tactics within Iranian actors but not over the merits and essence," Terzi highlighted. "The differences are on how to keep the regime in power."

As Washington is weighing possible approaches vis-a-vis Tehran and the mullahs' regime, a very important reality must be understood in this time period as the Iranian regime's supreme leader, with his health deteriorating fast and talks of his successor gaining momentum, is facing a variety of very significant crises.

"… the choices for Khamenei are between the worse and the worst of the worst. This is the reality that Khamenei has to deal with. This is a totally new situation with new prospects, bringing the regime closer to its downfall," Mohaddessin concluded.

Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an Iranian human rights activist.

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