What does the death of Ebrahim Raishi mean for Iran?

The Islamic Republic faces an unexpected tragedy in the midst of a period of crises and challenges

Screenshot 3 16 Ebrahim Raishi, Iran

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's statement that there will be no disruption in the functioning of the state captures one side of the situation in Iran following the crash that resulted in the deaths of President Ibrahim Raishi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, captures one side of the reality.

The one that has to do with the fact that the Islamic Republic is not a regime where all decisions are decided by who is in charge, but has a political structure that allows for continuity of the state and the election of leadership, as well as a set of complementary centers of power , which are reflected in a constitutional framework that combines democratic elections with the special importance of religious leadership, as reflected in the role of the Supreme Leader but also in the importance of the Council of Guardians.

This is now reflected in the activation of the relevant provisions of the Constitution for the transfer of the powers of the president to the first vice president, Mohammad Mohber.

But there is another side to reality, that of the death of a leader in whom there had been significant political investment to be not only the president but also the next Supreme Leader, since that office is actually the most important in in the complex balances of the Iranian political system, as it is known that Khamenei has been facing health problems for years.

Raishi, on the contrary, seemed to have all the qualifications for this position, representing what in Iran is described as conservative, that is, that which combines a stricter stance on religious and cultural issues with a greater emphasis on social justice and a more decisive stance towards in the West. A current that faces the "reformers", first and foremost the former president Rouhani who are more tolerant in religious and cultural matters and at the same time more liberal in economic policy and more inclined to compromise with the West.

Raisi himself was faced with a series of problems. First, a strong social discontent related to economic policy, which is exacerbated by the effects of US sanctions reinstated after the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the agreement on the nuclear program and the stagnation of negotiations that started again after the election of Biden. Second, significant mobilizations also fueled by the attempt to re-tighten cultural issues culminating in the reactions to the death of Makhsa Amini while in police custody. Thirdly, the escalation of the undeclared war with Israel after the start of the Israeli military operation in Gaza, although as it has recently become clear, Iran does not wish to be drawn into an open conflict. And of course, all this against the background of the "New Cold War" which has seen Iran shift more and more into an alliance with Russia and China, with the latter also seeking to have upgraded economic relations, at a time when in progress a process of normalization with Gulf countries first and foremost with Saudi Arabia in order to prevent the possibility of an "anti-Iranian" front.

Against this backdrop, Raishi's death, like that of Hossein Amirabdalohian, a foreign minister who served the new direction, is unlikely to bring about a significant change of course. Let's not forget that in the complex Iranian system there are other important centers of power, especially in terms of foreign policy, such as the Revolutionary Guards who, among other things, manage relations with the Axis of Resistance movements. And that means that there is not going to be a major shift from today's direction of a determination that doesn't translate into greater involvement in a major conflict with either Israel or the US, given that current developments anyway mean costs for the West and enhance Iran's prestige in the region.

But Raishi's death simultaneously deprives Iran of a leader who could be the face of this policy and enjoy relative popularity, and at the same time leads it to a hasty election campaign for his successor amid open fronts and active legitimization problem facing the Islamic Republic, as there is still a strong patriotic feeling, but there is fatigue from social problems while authoritarianism exacerbates a division between the strata that support conservative choices and the strata, mainly middle, that would like relaxation . And of course, despite the checks and balances that the Islamic Republic has in a way, a transitional leadership and an intense election campaign in the middle of such open fronts certainly increases the pressure and makes things more complex.

Source: in.gr