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What comes next for Iran after the death of President Raisi?

In News, World
May 20, 2024

The deaths of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in a helicopter crash on Sunday have now been confirmed by Iranian authorities.

After a desperate overnight search for the aircraft in the rugged terrain it had fallen in, rescuers finally found the accident site and retrieved the bodies of the eight people who had been on board.

Al Jazeera takes a closer look at what the plans are for their funerals, and what comes next for Iran.

When will the funerals be?

The bodies of Raisi, 63, Amirabdollahian, 60, and the other officials and staff were brought to Tabriz, the capital city of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, and a public procession was held.

Another ceremony will be held on Tuesday morning, when the funeral rites will begin, as the bodies are transferred to Tehran.

In the capital, another procession and other ceremonies will be held, the details of which have yet to be finalised.

Organisers in Mashhad said they are planning a “glorious” burial for Raisi, who was born in the holy Shia city in northeastern Iran and was a custodian of its powerful bonyad, or charitable trust, which operates the shrine.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has announced five days of public mourning.

Who will become Iran’s president and foreign minister?

Mohammad Mokhber and Ali Bagheri Kani are now interim president and foreign minister, respectively, and may be replaced once a new president is elected.

But both are highly likely to remain at the top levels of government, if not in their new positions, after having been mainstays of the Raisi administration, which was often praised by – and is closely aligned with – Khamenei.

What does this mean for Iran?

Iran will now have to hold elections and choose a new president within 50 days, according to the country’s constitution, about a year sooner than planned.

State media has reported that the election will take place on June 28, with candidates to be registered between May 30 and June 3.

Raisi won the presidency by a distance in 2021, amid wide disqualification of reformist and moderate candidates and a record-low turnout.

Considering the fact that all Iranian presidents who have served under Khamenei had been in office for two terms, Raisi was widely expected to win re-election next year.

“The judiciary, the legislative branch, as well as the executive branch are being controlled by the more right-leaning, conservatives in Iran currently,” Reza H Akbari, Middle East and North Africa programme manager at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, told Al Jazeera.

“So some analysts believe Raisi’s death may open up room for more traditional conservative [candidates] to make an attempt at the office of the presidency.”

How significant was Raisi in Iran?

Khamenei has been supreme leader since 1989, but as he is age 85 and has suffered from health issues in recent years, the question of who will replace him as head of state has become more prominent in Iran. Raisi’s name had been floated as a candidate, alongside Khamenei’s own 55-year-old son, Mojtaba. Yet, some analysts say Raisi was never likely to ascend to the highest position in Iran.

“Raisi was a weak president, but he was a loyalist and the most loyal option…. the Supreme Leader could find,” said Hamidreza Azizi, a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin.

At the same time, his conservative background “gave him a level of support from government supporters and within the elites”, Azizi said.

Raisi had not commented on possibly succeeding Khamenei. But the president, who was rarely criticised by conservative politicians, was certain to play a role in shaping the future of Iran.

Mojtaba Khamenei, on the other hand, is a cleric with close ties to the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who rarely appears or speaks publicly.

“The political infighting that ensues after the death of the supreme leader will more than likely be too chaotic for us to predict,” Akbari said.

Will this change Iran’s international policies?

Raisi and Amirabdollahian had spent almost three years establishing themselves as the faces of Iran on the global stage, but their passing will likely not signal a major shift for Iran’s foreign policy.

The Iranian political establishment has a roughly unified view of Iran’s international policies.

Interim President Mohammad Mokhber has been mostly focused on local affairs, from navigating politics to managing efforts to stabilise the perennially sanctioned Iranian economy.

But he has also accompanied the president, or led delegations himself, on foreign trips from China and Russia to a tour of Africa.

Interim Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani has been Iran’s chief negotiator in nuclear talks with global powers. It is unclear whether he has the same strong ties with the regional, Iran-aligned “axis of resistance” that Amirabdollahian had.

“The policies will not drastically change,” Akbari said. “The National Security Council in Iran, the supreme leader, and when it comes to certain foreign policy files, the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps], bureaucratically and institutionally speaking, set Iran’s foreign policy agenda.”

Will there be a difference in Iran’s domestic politics?

The passing of Raisi and Amirabdollahian could entail some changes in Iran’s domestic power politics. But the establishment is now run by conservative and hardline political camps, and any potential power struggles are expected to be within those ranks – with reformists out of the picture.

The IRGC has consistently grown stronger since reformers and moderates were shunned in the aftermath of the fall of the nuclear deal and the reimposition of sanctions on Iran. And the hardline factions have refused to compromise in the wake of the wave of anti-government protests that followed the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in 2022.

Many appointments since 2021 have involved IRGC personnel, and Mokhber – or the next president – is unlikely to reverse that trend. The latest major appointment came in May 2023, when IRGC commander Ali Akbar Ahmadian was selected by Khamenei as Iran’s new security chief.

What about Iran’s regional networks?

Iran’s growing support for the “axis of resistance” of political and military groups, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Islamic Resistance in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen, has encompassed a decades-long strategic policy that will not change with the deaths of Raisi or Amirabdollahian.

Their successors will be responsible for developing an effective public image of collaboration with, and support for, the members of the axis while maintaining lines of communication with the US and European powers.

This is especially important amid Israel’s war on Gaza, which threatens the region and has pitted Iran and the axis against Israel and its allies.

EMEA Tribune is not involved in this news article, it is taken from our partners and or from the News Agencies. Copyright and Credit go to the News Agencies, email news@emeatribune.com Follow our WhatsApp verified Channel210520-twitter-verified-cs-70cdee.jpg (1500×750)

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