1. Home
  2. English
  3. Business
  4. Roving Periscope: Iran heads to uncertain future as President Raisi dies in chopper crash
Roving Periscope: Iran heads to uncertain future as President Raisi dies in chopper crash

Roving Periscope: Iran heads to uncertain future as President Raisi dies in chopper crash

Social Share

Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: Amid simmering conflict with Israel, tensions with the US and the Arabs, the killing of senior army generals, and a months-long women’s anti-clerical agitation, Iran on Monday headed toward an uncertain future as its President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian died in a helicopter crash in the dense fog in the mountains near the Azerbaijan borders.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has mourned the tragic death of the two Iranian leaders.

After his death was officially confirmed after 14 hours, Iran appointed First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as Interim President. With Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s assent, he will serve in the top office until a new President’s election, according to Article 131 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution, within 50 days, that is in July, instead of in 2025.

Mokhber, 68, is also seen as close to Khamenei and was elected as the First Vice President in the 2021 polls. He has been active in some of Iran’s key decisions, including being part of the visit to Moscow in October last year, where Iran agreed to supply surface-to-surface missiles and more drones to Russia’s military, the media reported.

Raisi, 63, became the Islamic Republic of Iran’s eighth President in 2021. His tenure was marked by a mass uprising, led by women, and an increasingly hawkish stance toward the West, led by America. Since October 2023, Iran threatened to destroy Israel and its sponsored militias like Hamas, Hezbollah, and Houthi continued to pound the Jewish state.

His helicopter crashed on Sunday in the northwest of the country, state media said. His death, along with that of Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian who was traveling with him, was confirmed on Monday by the semi-official “Mehr” news agency.

Raisi took office during an economic crisis brought on by the US withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal and the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the Middle East, the media reported.

Although he exercised little influence on Iran’s most important institutions, such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, he was widely seen in Iran as a favorite to eventually succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85. His death removes the only serious rival to Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba, to take the top job.

Raisi’s death came amid turmoil in the Middle East, centered on Israel’s war against Iran-backed Hamas in Gaza. Triggered by Hamas’s attack on Israel in October 2023, the ongoing war has spurred violence across the region and witnessed the death of over 35,000 Palestinians and the starvation of many more in the strife-torn enclave.

Iranian-supported militias in Iraq and Syria have targeted US bases, the Houthis in Yemen have fired on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Lebanon’s Hezbollah has launched missiles almost daily into Israel. Iran and Israel attacked each other directly for the first time in April, but they refrained from going for each other’s throats.

Raisi won the presidency on a record-low turnout in a poll that mostly excluded reformists and veteran politicians. He entered office pledging to end efforts to build trade ties with the West and instead focus on developing links with China and Russia. His presidency ended a period in which the foreign ministry was led by multilingual diplomats who favored better relations with the US and stronger trade with Europe.

He was born in the northeast city of Mashhad, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam. His father died when he was only 5, and he attended Islamic seminaries and became a public prosecutor in Karaj, a city in northern Iran, in his early 20s.

He was married to Jamileh Alamolhoda, the daughter of an ultraconservative cleric, and together they had two daughters.

Raisi first contested for the presidency in 2017 but lost to Hassan Rouhani, the relatively moderate incumbent. Rouhani was central to the nuclear accord that former US President Donald Trump jettisoned in 2018.

In his subsequent rise to the presidency and backed by the highest levels of Iran’s religious and military establishment, Raisi’s election meant all of the country’s state institutions and levers of power were in the hands of hardliners.

With Iran’s oil-based economy battered by years of sanctions, Raisi promised to improve matters when he took office. Instead, Iran’s currency has plummeted to successive lows against the US dollar and the country is facing mounting pressure to boost cooperation with UN inspectors of its nuclear program or face diplomatic censure followed by a potential referral to the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Citing his alleged role in human rights violations, the US sanctioned Raisi in 2019. In 2018, Amnesty International accused him of being a member of a “death commission” that executed thousands of political dissidents in the late 1980s.

During his term in office, Iran was gripped by some of the most widespread and violent protests in the Islamic Republic’s history. Triggered by the death of a young woman in police custody shortly after her arrest in 2023 for allegedly violating Islamic dress codes, the protests were brutally suppressed but failed to wipe them out.

Iran resumed diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia in 2023 after a seven-year rift, in a deal brokered by China. Both countries were invited to join the BRICS group of emerging-market nations that year, although only Iran officially became a member.

Raisi also sought to strengthen ties with China, visiting Beijing in 2023 and meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping. Iran has backed Russia in its ongoing war in Ukraine, supplying drones and participating in the creation of new shipping and rail routes, seeking to weaken sanctions.

He faced allegations from human rights groups for overseeing a panel that handled the execution of hundreds of political prisoners in Tehran in 1988 towards the end of Iran’s eight-year war with Iraq.

Raisi served as the deputy head of the judiciary for 10 years until being appointed as the prosecutor-general in 2014. He also faced sanctions from the United States over alleged human rights violations.

He rose through the ranks of Iran’s Shia Muslim clergy and was appointed by Khamenei to the high-profile job of judiciary chief in 2019. As Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s loyalist, Raisi was later appointed as the deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts, the body responsible for electing the next Supreme Leader. Under Iran’s power structure, Khamenei is the Islamic Republic’s top authority.


Your email address will not be published.

Join our WhatsApp Channel

And stay informed with the latest news and updates.

Join Now
revoi whats app qr code