May 21, 2024

Ebrahim Raisi

“Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed when his helicopter crashed in poor weather in mountains near the Azerbaijan border, officials and state media said on Monday…

“Under the Islamic Republic's constitution, a new presidential election must be held within 50 days. Any candidate must first be vetted by the Guardian Council, a hardline watchdog that has often disqualified even prominent conservative and moderate officials… ‘As Iran selects a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms,’ State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said as the U.S. expressed its ‘official condolences’.”


Both sides condemn Raisi and argue that Iranian policy is unlikely to change:

“Mr. Raisi has long been identified with official repression… In 1988, he served on a committee appointed to judge whether prisoners were loyal to the regime; some 3,000 to 5,000 were disappeared or extrajudicially executed, their bodies dumped in mass graves. No one was ever held to account for these atrocities. To the contrary, Mr. Raisi advanced higher in the regime and in 2019 became chief justice of the country’s supreme court…

“In addition to harsh measures at home, Iran under Mr. Raisi has been a source of constant trouble abroad: menacing Israel; funding Hezbollah, the Houthis and Hamas; supplying Russia with Shahed drones for use against civilians in Ukraine; sending security agents abroad to attack dissidents; and continuing to amass ballistic missiles — as well as nuclear material for a possible weapon.”

Editorial Board, Washington Post

“Raisi, a loyal Khamenei acolyte, was one of the favorites [to succeed the supreme leader]. So his death not only vacates the No. 2 spot, it also sends the contest for the top job into turmoil. It’s remarkable in this crucial battle over the future of Iran and who will lead it potentially for years if not decades to come, that millions of Iranians – perhaps even the majority of the people – will have no voice, no one to represent their views…

“Years ago, Iranian elections, restricted as they were, held an element of truth. Occasionally, a reformer would be elected. No more. The supremely uncharismatic Raisi ran in 2017 and lost. In 2021, the regime disqualified all but seven out of the nearly 600 prospective candidates, leaving only Raisi in an uncompetitive field, making sure that Khamenei’s hand-picked choice would win… The chance of a kinder, gentler Iran emerging after new presidential elections are held in 50 days are essentially nil.”

Frida Ghitis, CNN

“How much of an impact will this have on the situation in Iran? Most foreign policy analysts thus far seem to believe the impact will be minimal. If anything, this will simplify the contest to determine who will succeed 85-year-old Supreme Leader Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei… The battle to be his successor had been seen as being between Raisi and Khamenei's son Mojtaba. This air traffic failure will likely clear the path for Mojtaba…

The domestic political situation is similarly unlikely to change… Neither [interim President Mohammad] Mokhber nor Khamenei's son have more of a Westernized streak in them than Raisi did and they have no interest in loosening up the country's strict Muslim dress and social codes. So while the initial news of the helicopter crash generated some shockwaves in the international political scene, We will probably be dealing with the same situation going forward, with only a few of the faces and names having changed.”

Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

“That Iranians celebrated with fireworks in Raisi’s hometown Mashhad reflects the hatred with which Iranians view the regime that oppresses them. This should be a warning to the regime: Raisi is one thing, but when 85-year-old Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has his hard landing, it will kick-start Iranians’ active quest for regime change

“The White House, State Department, and CIA [are scrambling] to figure out who might permanently replace Raisi… [But] a more productive approach might be to consider what other hard landings loom in the near future… Khamenei is partially paralyzed and has openly battled cancer. To assume the ailing ayatollah will be an anchor for stability is foolish. To prioritize rapprochement with his regime over strengthening traditional alliances with countries such as Israel, Egypt, or Saudi Arabia is malpractice.”

Michael Rubin, Washington Examiner

Other opinions below.

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From the Left

“Inevitably, some pointed to Israel as a possible culprit. That country denied any involvement, but it has done that in previous instances when it killed key Iranian officials…

“Another pesky theory that will be hard for the regime to shake was the notion that this was an inside job… There was a time when loyalty meant something in Iran’s theocratic system, but there has also been a long history of violent and unresolved deaths within the state in the 45-year history of the Islamic republic…

“But the most probable cause of this fatal helicopter crash is the least fanciful and most damning: It was an accident that most likely happened because much in the Islamic republic is in an advanced state of decay… In a country where responsibility for failures large and small is almost always attributed to the will of God, one wonders what act of divine intervention will be required to explain this mess.”

Jason Rezaian, Washington Post

From the Right

“Raisi signed an execution order in 1988 that led to the mass murder of thousands of dissidents who opposed the Islamic regime…

“He became no more moderate in his old age, arresting thousands of women in an attempt to quash protests that broke out in 2022. Hundreds were confirmed to have been raped and executed while in custody. That's just a small taste of the murderous tyranny Raisi partook in throughout his time in power…

“Yet, here is the Biden administration offering ‘official condolences’ for a man who was on the same level as some of history's most violent and oppressive authoritarians. This is no different than had the United States offered condolences to the Germans for the death of Hitler. For context, there have been no American diplomatic relations with Iran since 1980. In other words, there was zero requirement or even expectation for condolences to be offered in this case. This was a choice.”

Bonchie, RedState

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