Iran’s President Has Died – What Now?

Iran's President Has Died - What Now?

( – Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash with several others on Monday, May 20. As a hardliner, many considered him the protege and eventual successor of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His death left a gap, temporarily filled by First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, but it also raised questions about what will happen next.

Raisi’s Death

Raisi was aboard a Bell 212 helicopter, returning from an official meeting, when the aircraft crashed in the mountains in the northwestern region near Azerbaijan’s border. He and six others, including crew members, died in the impact. Experts believe poor weather conditions were a factor in the crash.

Khamenei declared five days of mourning for the president, which began on Tuesday, May 21. Thousands of mourners gathered in Tabriz, the city closest to the crash site, some carrying posters of those who died. The government declared a public holiday on Wednesday, the day Raisi’s funeral took place in Tehran. State members will lay the former president to rest on Friday in the holy city of Mashhad.

What’s Next?

While Mokhber is serving as acting president in the interim, Raisi’s death has sparked considerable speculation about what’s next for the country. Many believe few significant changes will occur in Iran because Khamenei remains the reigning ruler. However, there is uncertainty in other areas.

Israel, Iran, and Hamas

In regards to tensions between Israel and Iran, for example, some ambiguity exists, which, according to the director of the Iran Project, Ali Vaez, “increases the risks of miscalculation.” The two nations recently exchanged fire. However, the loss of negotiations Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who also died in the crash, were trying to conduct between Israel and Hamas has compounded the complexities with Israel. Some have raised concerns that the Jewish state might use the president’s death to orchestrate attacks on Iran.

US-Iran Tensions

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said he expects no change to Western relations with Iran. He also denied that the United States had blood on its hands for issuing sanctions that prevented Iran from purchasing new Bell 212 helicopters or parts to maintain its existing fleet.

Future Leadership

The immediate issue facing Iran remains: Who will take over for Khamenei? The Ayatollah had groomed Raisi for the role, and he had become part of a panel that would choose the next successor. He was ruthless in his endeavors and had the blood of thousands of people on his hands. Raisi also tightened up morality laws, which led to protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in 2022 at the hands of morality police.

The current political landscape, comprised of younger men who don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with Khamenei’s vision, could prove a problem for the Supreme Leader.

Iran has scheduled elections to select a new president within 50 days. At this time, the candidates are unclear.

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