Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Ebrahim Raisi passed away

Ebrahim Raisi, who passed away at 63, advanced through Iran’s theocratic ranks from a stringent prosecutor to a resolute president. He managed a harsh suppression of domestic protests and adopted a tough stance in nuclear negotiations with global powers, enhancing his qualifications to potentially succeed as the next supreme leader.

Raisi died in a helicopter crash while returning from a visit to the Azerbaijani border, which occurred in mountainous terrain and resulted in the deaths of all on board, according to a senior Iranian official. Among the casualties was Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

Elected president in a tightly controlled vote in 2021, Raisi adopted a firm position in nuclear negotiations, aiming to secure substantial relief from US sanctions in exchange for minimal restrictions on Iran’s advancing technology.

Iran’s hardliners felt emboldened by the chaotic US military withdrawal from neighboring Afghanistan and the policy fluctuations in Washington.

In 2018, then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal Tehran had made with six world powers and reinstated severe US sanctions on Iran, leading Tehran to gradually breach the agreement’s nuclear constraints.

Indirect talks between Tehran and US President Joe Biden’s administration to revive the nuclear deal have stalled.

Raisi’s hardline stance extended to domestic politics as well. A year after his election, the mid-ranking cleric ordered stricter enforcement of Iran’s “hijab and chastity law,” which restricts women’s dress and behavior.

Within weeks, a young Kurdish Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, died in custody after being arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating that law.

The ensuing months of nationwide protests posed one of the most serious challenges to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

According to rights groups, hundreds of people were killed, including dozens of security personnel involved in the fierce crackdown on demonstrators. “Acts of chaos are unacceptable,” the president insisted.

Although a political novice, Raisi had full backing from his patron, the strongly anti-Western Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for his nuclear stance and the security crackdown.

In Iran’s dual political system, which is divided between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Khamenei, not the president, who has the final say in all major policies.

Raisi’s election victory, achieved after heavyweight conservative and moderate rivals were disqualified by a hardline oversight body, consolidated all branches of power in Iran under hardliners loyal to Khamenei. This bolstered Raisi’s chances of potentially succeeding him as Supreme Leader.

However, the widespread protests against clerical rule and his inability to revive Iran’s struggling economy—hampered by Western sanctions and mismanagement—may have diminished his popularity at home.

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