The leadership crisis in Tehran - Hindustan Times

The leadership crisis in Tehran

ByHT Editorial
May 22, 2024 12:29 AM IST

President Ebrahim Raisi’s death is unlikely to impact Iran’s relations with the world but complicates its domestic politics

The death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash is not expected to result in any drastic change in the country’s domestic or foreign policies as true power lies in the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the security establishment led by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). However, the death of Raisi and foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian comes at a time when tensions between Iran and Israel are at an unprecedented level, with the shadow warfare waged by the two sides coming out into the open following Tehran’s recent firing of hundreds of drones and missiles at Israeli targets in retaliation for an air strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Syria. Amir-Abdollahian was the face of Iran’s diplomatic efforts to address these tensions, and Tehran has done well to speedily replace him with Ali Bagheri Kani, who has been involved in negotiations with the West on sensitive issues, including the now defunct Iranian nuclear deal.

An Iraqi soldier stands guard next candles list by people paying their respects to Iran's late president Ebrahim Raisi outside the Iranian embassy in Baghdad(AFP) PREMIUM
An Iraqi soldier stands guard next candles list by people paying their respects to Iran's late president Ebrahim Raisi outside the Iranian embassy in Baghdad(AFP)

While Iran’s state-run media has attributed the helicopter crash to technical problems, this hasn’t prevented theories being circulated about the possible involvement of Israel. Israeli officials have dismissed such reports, but it would be in Iran’s own interest to speedily conduct an investigation into the crash. This would remove any lingering uncertainty about the incident and prevent the risk of miscalculation by both sides, as also the possibility that some actors may wish to capitalise on the situation created by Raisi’s death. The world community, including India, does not want the situation in West Asia to spiral out of control and efforts should continue to involve Iran in finding a solution to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Iran’s involvement with armed groups in Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen underlines the urgency of such efforts.

Raisi’s death will have a significant impact on the succession plan within Iran, especially as he was seen as a possible successor to the ageing Khamenei. First vice president Mohammad Mokhber has been made acting president and will have the task of conducting a presidential election within 50 days against a backdrop of growing voter apathy. With reformists and moderates completely sidelined, there are already concerns about different hardline factions jockeying for position, with a resultant increase in repressive measures on the Iranian people.

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