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Dealing with the Israel-US standoff will be a major test for Iran’s new leadership

The Guardian

Update: 20 May 2024,

Mourners pay their respects to Iran’s President Ibrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash. Jakarta, Indonesia, May 20, 2024 Photo: Reuters


The death of Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash comes at a time when the country is facing multiple challenges both internally and externally. In addition to tension with the West over the nuclear program, Tehran is facing the challenge of maintaining the continuity of power within the country. The question of who will be the successor of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme religious leader of Iran, who is currently 85 years old, has come to the fore. Raisi was considered to be Khamenei’s successor.

In Iran’s regime, state power is dominated by religious leaders, politicians and the military. Among them, the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is above all. The President takes all important decisions with his support. President Ibrahim Raisi was known to be very loyal to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ibrahim Raisi became president after winning the 2021 election with the support of the supreme leader. In recent months he had been mentioned as one of Khamenei’s potential successors. His death may clear the way for Khamenei’s son Mojtaba Khamenei for the post. However, the country’s 88-member ‘Council of Experts’ will decide who will be the successor of the supreme leader.

Vice President Mohammad Mokhbarbi becomes Iran’s interim presidentPhoto: X

Iran is facing the challenge of the West with its nuclear program in the international arena. Going forward will be a major challenge for Tehran amid strained relations with various countries in the Middle East, particularly Israel and its ally the United States.

The death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian in a helicopter crash has also come as a big blow to Iran. Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Ageri Kani, who became acting foreign minister after his death, now has to negotiate with the West over Iran’s nuclear program.

Major test for Iran’s new leadership :

Iran has not lost a sitting president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But in such a situation, the country has clear instructions about who will come to that position. Iran’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhbar, has been declared interim president by the country’s highest authority, the Guardian Council. Mokhbar, a former banker, previously served as deputy governor of Khuzestan province. Now Iran has to elect a new president within 50 days. That would not give the country’s supreme leader and his followers much time to choose a suitable candidate.

A major challenge for Iran’s new leadership will now be to manage the country’s dissidents. Along with this, maintaining close relations with Russia and China while handling hostility with the West will also appear as a big challenge.

Iran’s relationship with Israel also remains a longstanding challenge. Tensions in this relationship reached a peak last April with counter-attacks by the two countries. In addition, the role of the Iran-backed armed groups Hamas, Hezbollah and Houthis against Israel will also depend on the new leadership of Iran.

But Iran’s new president will have to make the biggest decision regarding Iran’s nuclear program. On May 9, Kamal Kharazi, a foreign policy adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, said that if Israel attacks, Iran will change the course of its nuclear program and go on the path to developing nuclear weapons.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi has warned Iran not to talk lightly about developing nuclear weapons. He mentioned that such talk is boring.



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