EDITORIAL: Death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will bring nervous days as it plunges Iran into turmoil

The Nightly
3 Min Read
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visiting the site of a proposed road and rail bridge project over the Aras River, following a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. His helicopter crashed shortly afterwards, killing Mr Raisi and his foreign minister.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visiting the site of a proposed road and rail bridge project over the Aras River, following a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. His helicopter crashed shortly afterwards, killing Mr Raisi and his foreign minister. Credit: Handout/Office of the President of the I

Few will mourn the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash near the nation’s border with Azerbaijan.

As a member of Iran’s so-called “death committee” in the 1980s, he sent hundreds of political prisoners to the gallows, earning him the nickname “the Butcher of Tehran”.

In the decades since, Raisi has maintained his reputation as the hardest of hardliners, and since ascending to the presidency in 2021’s rigged election, has been widely believed to be groomed as a successor to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

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Some fear his sudden death, alongside foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and seven others, will provide the spark needed to set ablaze an already highly combustible situation in Iran.

The regime now has just 50 days to find a new president.

A high-stakes power struggle will only inflame domestic tensions and could drive further state repression as potential successors to Raisi vie to demonstrate their conservative credentials.

In just three years as president, Raisi saw Iran lurch even deeper into totalitarianism, tightening the nation’s morality laws, overseeing a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests and cosying up further to China and Russia.

The nation’s role in the unfolding Israel-Hamas war went from proxy backer to direct combatant in April, when Iran launched hundreds of missiles towards Israel in retaliation for an Israeli airstrike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, killing two Iranian generals.

That was an escalation that showed Iran would not hesitate to directly attack Israel if the theocracy felt doing so was necessary. In that instance, most of the Iranian missiles were safely repelled by Israel, and both nations stepped back from the brink of all-out confrontation.

Next time could go differently.

At the moment, the official explanation for the crash is poor weather. Rescue and recovery efforts were hampered by blizzard conditions and perilous mountainous terrain. But speculation about foul play and possible third-party involvement — whether that be by Israel or one of its allies or a domestic actor — will be inevitable, given what is at stake.

Ever since October 7, when Hamas militants brutally murdered 1200 Israelis, it has felt as if the world has stood at the precipice of a catastrophic multi-state war, one which could have devastating consequences for the entire world.

Many thousands have been killed since.

While Raisi certainly will not be missed by the West, nor his many enemies in Iran, it’s unlikely that his death will have any moderating influence. Instead, it is more likely to add to Iran’s domestic turmoil and instability.

The death of his most trusted lieutenant will throw Khamenei’s grand plan for succession into disarray.

The world faces nervous days ahead as Tehran’s ruling elite jostles to replace him.

Who emerges from this leadership scrap the victor will have lasting impacts both in Iran and around the world.

Responsiblity for the editorial comment is taken by Editor-In-Chief Christopher Dore.

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