Iran's June 14 elections are expected to produce a president loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and do nothing to improve prospects for an end to its nuclear standoff with the West or support for President Bashar Assad's embattled regime in Syria.
The Guardian Council, composed of jurists and clerics that vets all candidates for elected office, has slashed a list of nearly 700 presidential hopefuls down to eight.
"The field of candidates has been whittled down to men who are extreme loyalists to Khamenei," said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
"The decisions on Iran's nuclear program are most likely to remain in the hands of the Supreme Leader and his Revolutionary Guard. ... Unless the West is prepared to bring the regime to the brink of economic collapse combined with the credible threat of military force, we are unlikely to break the nuclear will of the regime," he said.
Kenneth Katzman, a Middle East specialist at the Congressional Research Service, called the remaining candidates "pliable tools of the supreme leader."
"None of the likely winners will attract significant momentum in the U.S. or the West to ease any sanctions," he said, referring to punitive economic measures imposed over Iran's nuclear program.
Iran's supreme leader controls foreign policy and the country's nuclear ambitions. Iran insists its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, but the United States, Israel and European nations suspect the regime is building nuclear weapons.