Updated May 21st, 2024 at 12:51 IST

Iran Faces Challenge at Domestic and International Fronts After Ebrahim Raisi's Death

Raisi came to power in 2021 after defeating former candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh. He shifted the country’s foreign policy towards the Middle East as a priority.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his cabinet ministers died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, May 19 | Image: (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Tehran: The sudden demise of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his cabinet ministers in a helicopter crash on Sunday, May 19, shocked the world, prompting possible democratic and national challenges for Iran. Raisi, an elite name in the Islamic Republic held a potential sway in Iran over domestic policies. Given his influence, will Raisi's absence hamper Iran's capability in maintaining its domestic affairs?

As Raisi was responsible for most of the decisions taken by the country, clarifying uncertainty internally and with neighbouring rivals, Supremo Khamenei said, "The nation doesn’t need to be worried or anxious, as the administration of the country will not be disrupted."


Iran's History of Turmoil

In the past few years, Iran has been dealing with dwindling conflicts nationally and internationally. In 2022, Iran witnessed one of the most severe protests in its history, the national outrage over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the morality police.


The local protests in different parts of the country over the economic crisis and government policies posed a significant challenge to the Islamic nation.

Moreover, this year's parliamentary elections saw one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country’s history. However, now the holding of new elections, which is mandated within 50 days of Raisi’s death, poses a significant challenge for the regime at a time when its public legitimacy is at its lowest.


How Did Raisi Come to Power and What Were His Policies?

Raisi came to power in 2021 after defeating former candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh. His background of hardline conservatism and long association with Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led to Raisi's rise in Iran. The duo almost had no conflicts or disagreements, which contrasts with previous governments, most of which had some distance or tension with the leader.


During his tenure, unlike his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, Raisi shifted the country’s foreign policy more towards the Middle East, making it the "top priority," than prioritising relationships with European countries and normalising ties with other Western nations.

This includes Iran's negotiations with Jordan and Egypt, facilitated again by Iraq, where these initiatives offered a chance to move past the sectarian conflicts that have long dominated the region and lay the groundwork for better cooperation.


In the past years, Raisi also helped grow closer to China and Russia.

However, Iran's equation with the West and Israel remained complex. The recent escalation in the ongoing conflict with Israel presented serious security concerns and gave rise to a host of conspiracy theories. Several rumours gained traction where the public suggested the president’s helicopter crash was the result of 'electronic warfare,' or a drone attack or even a ground assault by Israel. However, the IRNA state news agency said the crash was due to a “technical failure."


In the case of the West, Iran continues to remain under severe sanctions by the United States over its nuclear programme.

Will Iran's Foreign Policy Change Under New Presidency?

Amid his demise, Vice President Mohammad Mokhber has stepped in as acting president until new elections are held.

Iran’s foreign policies are likely to remain the same under the new president. The appointment of Ali Bagheri Kani as acting foreign minister reinforces this continuity.


Kani has played a key role in leading the nuclear negotiations under Raisi, aligning with the country’s established foreign policy direction.

In addition, Iran’s closer relations with its neighbours signal a more permanent shift away from 'isolation.'


(With Inputs from AP)




Published May 21st, 2024 at 12:43 IST