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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024

Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi dies in a helicopter crash, leaving a power vacuum

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The sudden death of President Raisi poses significant challenges to Iran’s political stability and succession planning

The sudden death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash has sent shockwaves through the Iranian political landscape and the wider Middle East. Raisi, a staunch hardliner and considered a key figure in the succession plans of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was returning from a visit to Azerbaijan when his helicopter went down in a mountainous region. The accident not only claimed the life of Raisi but also that of Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and other senior officials, marking a significant blow to the Iranian regime at a time of heightened internal and external pressures.

Raisi, often referred to as a protégé of Khamenei, had been viewed as a frontrunner to succeed the 85-year-old Supreme Leader. His presidency was marked by strict adherence to hardline policies, a deepening economic crisis, and widespread protests. His death leaves a significant void in Iran’s leadership, complicating the already complex process of succession. The incident occurred amid foggy weather conditions as Raisi was returning from a trip to inaugurate a dam in Azerbaijan. The crash site, located near the Iranian-Azerbaijani border, has been the focus of intense rescue operations, but no signs of life were detected among the wreckage.

Raisi’s tenure was deeply unpopular among many Iranians due to the economic hardships and brutal crackdowns on dissent. His administration was marked by soaring inflation, a depreciating currency, and a series of protests led by women and youth demanding more freedoms and better living conditions. Despite these challenges, Raisi remained a key figure in Khamenei’s plans to ensure the dominance of hardliners in Iran’s political system. His death raises significant questions about the future direction of Iran’s domestic and foreign policies, especially in light of ongoing tensions with the West and Israel, and the fragile stability of the regime.

Financial Times Coverage

The Financial Times article by Andrew England highlights the profound impact of President Ebrahim Raisi’s death on the Iranian regime and its succession plans. Raisi, elected in 2021, was seen as integral to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s strategy to cement hardliner influence and ensure a smooth succession. His election was notably orchestrated, with leading conservative and reformist candidates barred from running, underscoring his importance in Khamenei’s plans. Despite his unpopular presidency, marked by economic struggles and public discontent, Raisi was considered a frontrunner to succeed Khamenei. The Assembly of Experts, which Raisi had been a part of since 2006, was also manoeuvred to favour hardliners, sidelining figures like former President Hassan Rouhani.

Raisi’s death necessitates an urgent election within 50 days, posing a significant challenge during a delicate period for the regime. Khamenei and other power centres must quickly prepare for this election, aiming to maintain hardliner control over the presidency. The article suggests that Raisi’s death will not dramatically alter key policies, as Khamenei remains the ultimate decision-maker. However, the regime will strive to avoid showing any signs of weakness or instability, particularly after recent waves of anti-regime protests and ongoing tensions with the West and Israel. The low voter turnout in recent elections, below 50% for the first time in a presidential poll since the 1979 revolution, indicates widespread public disillusionment and challenges the regime’s image of popular legitimacy.

Khamenei’s approach to foreign policy, characterized by a balance between belligerence towards the West and strategic caution, is expected to continue. Despite backing militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, Iran has avoided direct conflict with the US and Israel, maintaining a calculated stance to ensure the regime’s survival. The article concludes that Raisi’s death, while a significant blow to Khamenei, is unlikely to divert the regime from its course. Khamenei’s primary objective remains the survival of the Islamic Republic, and he is expected to continue his efforts to secure the power of loyalist hardliners and safeguard his legacy.

Sky News Coverage

Sky News’ coverage by Dominic Waghorn presents a detailed account of President Ebrahim Raisi’s hardline legacy and the potential instability his death brings to Iran. Raisi, known as one of Iran’s most uncompromising leaders, had a fearsome reputation rooted in his role during the 1988 mass executions of political prisoners, earning him the nickname “Butcher of Tehran.” His presidency was marked by brutal repression, particularly during the recent women-led protests, where hundreds were killed. Raisi’s death removes a significant hardliner from the Middle East, potentially altering the region’s geopolitical dynamics.

The article emphasizes Raisi’s involvement in Iran’s aggressive foreign policies, including direct attacks on Israel and support for militant groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and Houthi rebels. His leadership saw Iran engaging in numerous regional conflicts, further complicating relations with the West and neighbouring countries. Despite his hardline stance, Raisi’s government faced significant internal challenges, including economic failures and widespread unrest, undermining its credibility and support among the Iranian populace.

Raisi’s potential succession to Khamenei’s position had been seen as a continuation of Iran’s hardline policies. His death leaves a power vacuum that the regime will need to fill swiftly to avoid instability. The article notes that Iran’s government, already weakened by recent events and the Supreme Leader’s declining health, must now navigate a critical period of transition. While some Iranians might hope for a shift towards less repressive governance, the likelihood remains that Khamenei will appoint another hardliner to maintain the regime’s strict control.

Sky News also highlights the fear of instability in the run-up to the next elections. The regime will aim to secure the succession smoothly, but the loss of Raisi, a key figure in Khamenei’s plans, adds uncertainty to an already volatile situation. The article concludes by noting that while Raisi’s death might give some Iranians hope for change, the regime’s entrenched hardline stance is likely to persist, with Khamenei seeking to ensure the continuation of his policies through another loyal successor.

BBC Coverage

The BBC’s live updates and detailed report provide a comprehensive overview of the immediate aftermath of the helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. The crash occurred amid bad weather in a mountainous region near the Iranian-Azerbaijani border. The article confirms that there were no signs of life detected at the crash site, and the wreckage was located after an extensive search operation involving Turkish drones.

The report emphasizes the significance of Raisi’s death, considering his role as a hardline leader closely aligned with Supreme Leader Khamenei. Raisi’s presidency was marked by a strict adherence to the regime’s hardline policies, and he was a key figure in Khamenei’s succession plans. His death, along with that of the Foreign Minister, presents a substantial challenge to Iran’s political stability and future leadership.

The BBC provides a profile of Raisi, highlighting his controversial past, including his involvement in the 1988 mass executions and his role in the brutal crackdown on recent protests. His presidency faced significant internal opposition due to economic hardships and widespread public discontent. The article also profiles Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, noting his close ties to the Revolutionary Guard and his involvement in Iran’s foreign policy, including indirect talks with the US over the nuclear program and efforts to ease tensions with Saudi Arabia.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s condolences are mentioned, reflecting the international reaction to Raisi’s death. The BBC notes that Raisi’s death could impact Iran’s foreign policy dynamics, given his aggressive stance towards Israel and support for militant groups. The regime’s response to this crisis will be crucial in maintaining its stability and navigating the upcoming elections.

The article concludes by stating that Raisi’s death, while a significant blow to Khamenei, is unlikely to drastically change Iran’s overall policies. Khamenei’s control remains paramount, and the regime will likely continue its hardline approach both domestically and in its foreign relations. The immediate focus will be on managing the succession process and ensuring that the regime does not show any signs of instability during this critical period.

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