President’s death a perilous moment that Iran must handle carefully

This is a delicate time for Iran. President Raisi was the second most important man in Iran, after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

His death, now confirmed, will have far-reaching consequences.

Although Khamenei has tried to reassure the country in recent hours, the regime will know this is a perilous moment that must be handled carefully.

Live updates – Iranian president killed in crash

There are mechanisms to protect the regime in events like this and the Revolutionary Guard, which was founded in 1979 precisely for that purpose, will be a major player in what comes next.

In the immediate term, vice-president Mohammed Mokhber will assume control and elections will be held within 50 days.

Mokhber isn’t as close to the Supreme Leader as Raisi was, and won’t enjoy his standing, but he has run much of Khamenei’s finances for years and is credited with helping Iran evade some of the many sanctions levied on it.

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Drone footage of helicopter crash site

Raisi’s successor will most likely be the chosen candidate of the Supreme Leader and certainly another ultra-conservative hardliner – a shift back to the moderates is highly unlikely.

Likewise, we shouldn’t expect any significant change in Iran’s foreign activities or involvement with the war in Gaza. It will be business as usual, as much as possible.

However, after years of anti-government demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022, this might be a moment for the protest movement to rise up and take to the streets again.

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There are also many dissident groups inside Iran, including an off-shoot of Islamic State – they might seek to take advantage of this situation.

Raisi became president in 2021 at the second time of asking and only with a turnout of 41%, the lowest since the 1979 revolution.

The president is seen as a frontrunner to replace Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured) when he dies. Pic: Reuters
The president was considered one of the two frontrunners to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamanei (pictured). Pic: Reuters

He was not a universally popular figure and many inside Iran will celebrate his death.

Longer term, Raisi’s death will have consequences for the Supreme Leader.

He was considered one of the two frontrunners to succeed Ayatollah Ali Khamanei on his death – the other being Khamanei’s son Mojtaba.

For religious and conservative Iranians, Raisi’s death will be mourned; for many though, it will be the passing of a man who had blood on his hands.

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