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Friday, July 12, 2024

Who Would Profit From Ebrahim Raisi’s Loss of life?


Accidents occur in all places, however not all accidents are equal. Many hours after preliminary information broke about an “incident” involving a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the nation’s state media has nonetheless not confirmed whether or not he’s lifeless or alive. Numerous state shops have printed contradictory information—Was Raisi seen on video hyperlink after the accident? Was he not? Was the Nationwide Safety Council assembly? Was it not?—signaling chaos and panic. A supply in Tehran near the presidency advised me that Raisi has been confirmed lifeless, and that the authorities are searching for a approach to report the information with out inflicting mayhem. I’ve not been in a position to independently verify this.

Iran doesn’t look like a rustic by which presidents die by chance. But it surely additionally is a rustic by which plane crash, as a result of sorry state of infrastructure within the internationally remoted Islamic Republic. In earlier years, at the least two cupboard ministers and two main navy commanders have died in comparable crashes. Raisi’s chopper, which additionally carried Iran’s overseas minister and two high regional officers, was passing via an infamously foggy and mountainous space in northwestern Iran. The “incident” would possibly very effectively have been an accident.

But suspicions will inevitably encompass the crash. In spite of everything, air incidents that killed excessive political officers in Northern Rhodesia (1961), China (1971), Pakistan (1988), and Poland (2010) are nonetheless usually topic to hypothesis. On this case, a lot as within the others, one query will probably drive the hypothesis: Who stands to profit politically from Raisi’s dying? Even when the reply to this query doesn’t finally inform us why the helicopter crashed, it may shed some mild on what’s going to come subsequent within the Islamic Republic.

Raisi ascended to the presidency in 2021, in what gave the impression to be the least aggressive election Iran had held since 1997. Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had made certain that every one different severe candidates had been barred from operating. Amongst these disqualified weren’t solely reformists but additionally centrist conservatives and even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a former hard-line president whom Khamenei got here to see as a rival.

Raisi appeared to have been picked exactly as a result of he may by no means be a severe rival to Khamenei. In 2017, he revealed himself to be completely uncharismatic in electoral debates in opposition to then-President Hassan Rouhani. His time in workplace since 2021 additionally speaks not solely to his sheer incompetence but additionally to his political irrelevance. Some name him the Invisible President. Throughout the Ladies, Life, Freedom motion, which rocked Iran from 2022 to 2023, few protesters bothered to shout slogans in opposition to Raisi, as a result of they knew that actual energy rested elsewhere.

For Khamenei, what mattered was that Raisi may very well be counted on to toe the regime’s line. Though competitors is tight, Raisi might have extra blood on his fingers than every other dwelling official of the Islamic Republic. Because the Eighties, the Islamic Republic has executed 1000’s of Iranian dissidents. The judiciary is the arm of the federal government that carries out this murderous perform, and Raisi has held main positions inside it from the very begin; he rose to change into the pinnacle of the judiciary in 2019.

The identical qualities that probably made Raisi look like a protected regime selection for the presidency additionally made him a main contender for succeeding Khamenei because the Supreme Chief. In keeping with the Iranian structure, solely a cleric with severe political expertise can change into head of state. By now, many clerics who match that description have died or been politically marginalized (a lot of them didn’t share Khamenei’s hard-line politics), leaving the sector open to Raisi. In flip, many political observers anticipated that Raisi can be a weak supreme chief, permitting actual energy to stream elsewhere—to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), for instance, or to different energy facilities round or ancillary to the regime. Who higher for such a place than an unimpressive yes-man?

Raisi belongs to a really specific precinct of Iran’s political elite, and prior to now few years, others within the political class had come to fret in regards to the ambition of the circles surrounding him. A local of the holy metropolis of Mashhad, in northeastern Iran, Raisi beforehand held the custodianship of the holy shrine within the metropolis, which can be an financial empire in its personal proper. He’s married to the daughter of Mashhad’s Friday-prayer chief, an arch social conservative. Raisi’s spouse, Jamileh Alamolhoda, has performed an unusually public position, main some conservatives from exterior the couple’s regional cadre to fret that after Khamenei’s eventual dying, a “Mashhad clique” would possibly come to the highest of the regime.

Raisi’s obvious passivity has additionally emboldened challengers amongst a band of significantly noxious hard-liners, who noticed his weak presidency as a chance to lift their political profiles on the expense of extra established conservatives, such because the parliamentary speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. A few of these extremely hard-liners did effectively within the parliamentary election earlier this yr, which was largely a contest inside the hard-line camp. They ran a heated marketing campaign in opposition to Qalibaf, who commanded the assist of the primary pro-regime conservative political events and many retailers of the IRGC.

For all of those causes, Raisi’s dying would alter the steadiness of energy amongst factions inside the Islamic Republic. In keeping with the Iranian structure, his vp, Mohammad Mokhber, would assume the duties of the presidency, and a council consisting of Mokhber, Qalibaf, and the judiciary chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i must arrange new elections inside 50 days.

Once I requested an official near Qalibaf in regards to the political aftermath of the crash, he answered instantly: “Dr. Qalibaf would be the new president.”

He certainly wish to be. Qalibaf’s ambition is information to nobody; he has run for president a number of occasions, beginning in 2005. Extra technocrat than ideologue, Qalibaf was a commander within the IRGC throughout the Iran-Iraq Struggle and can probably command at the least some assist from inside its ranks. His lengthy tenure as mayor of Tehran (2005–2017) was marked by each a level of competence and fairly a little bit of corruption. His political enemies have just lately highlighted circumstances of corruption linked to him and his household. An official near former President Rouhani tells me, “Qalibaf’s drawback is that he needs it an excessive amount of. Everybody is aware of he has zero rules and can do something for energy.”

If Qalibaf registers to run in a rapidly organized presidential election, the Guardian Council may need a tough time rejecting him, given his deep hyperlinks to energy buildings in Iran. However would Khamenei be pleased with the presidency passing to a technocrat with out correct Islamist credentials? Who else can be allowed to run, and will they defeat Qalibaf on the polls, as Ahmadinejad and Rouhani did respectively in 2005 and 2013?

What twists the plot is the truth that some regime officers and former officers who’re supportive of Qalibaf additionally advocate for Khamenei’s son Mojtaba to succeed his father because the supreme chief. Mojtaba Khamenei has lengthy been within the shadows, and little is understood in regards to the 54-year-old’s politics or views, however he’s extensively held to be a severe contender for the workplace. May there be a discount between Mojtaba and Qalibaf that paves a path to energy for each of them?

When the Islamic Republic’s founding chief, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, died, in 1989, Khamenei changed him after making an unwritten pact with fellow cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who then assumed the presidency. The structure was swiftly modified to present extra powers to the president. Rafsanjani would come to remorse the pact, as he was politically sidelined by Khamenei earlier than dying what many in Iran think about a suspicious dying, in 2017. May this cautionary story make each side cautious?

Many have anticipated a ferocious energy wrestle in Iran, however most anticipated it to comply with Khamenei’s dying. Now we’re prone to see at the least a gown rehearsal by which varied factions will brandish their power. As for the folks of Iran, some have already began celebrating Raisi’s potential demise with fireworks in Tehran. Most Iranians barely really feel represented by any faction of the Islamic Republic, and a few would possibly use a second of political disaster to reignite the road protests which have repeatedly beleaguered the regime prior to now. The nation’s civic actions are exhausted following years of wrestle (greater than 500 folks had been killed in the newest spherical of protests, from 2022 to 2023). Nonetheless, no matter form the facility wrestle takes on the high, the folks of Iran received’t obtain it passively for lengthy.

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