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May 22, 2024

What Raisi’s Death Means for Iran and the World

It is incumbent upon the international community not to squander this moment but to steadfastly support the emergence of a new Iran.

Last weekend, the Iranian regime was thrust into turmoil with the deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir Hossein Abdollahian in a helicopter crash in Iran. This represents a significant setback for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who now faces an intensified crisis and a more precarious grip on power.

Khamenei had orchestrated Raisi’s rise to power in 2021, eliminating even loyal stalwarts within his own factions to ensure Raisi’s election. Raisi was not just a figurehead. He was known for his unwavering obedience to Khamenei. His death now leaves a vacuum that will be exceedingly difficult to fill, as finding someone who combines absolute loyalty and ruthlessness will be a daunting task for Khamenei.

Raisi’s background is marked by his role in some of the regime’s most brutal crackdowns. As Tehran’s Deputy Prosecutor during the 1988 massacre, Raisi played a key role in the execution of thousands of political prisoners, most of whom were members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK). His rapid rise through the ranks was a testament to his effectiveness in enforcing the regime’s most brutal crimes against humanity. From overseeing mass executions to his tenure as head of Astan Quds Razavi and later as judiciary chief, Raisi epitomized the regime’s genocidal actions.

Khamenei sought to consolidate power through a monolithic structure capable of withstanding both internal dissent and external pressures. Raisi was seen as the ideal candidate to purge dissenters and ensure absolute obedience to Khamenei’s vision. Many regime loyalists were purged to pave the way for Raisi’s ascent, highlighting the lengths to which Khamenei went to secure his position.

Raisi’s death plunges the regime into a deepening crisis by shattering the meticulously crafted balance within the regime’s hierarchy. Raisi was not merely a potential successor. He was the most uncompromising hardliner in the ranks. Now, the regime’s predictable response will be to escalate internal repression and external aggression — a time-tested strategy to project strength and divert attention from mounting domestic vulnerabilities.

The demise of Foreign Minister Amir Hossein Abdollahian exacerbates the regime’s already precarious situation. Abdollahian played a pivotal role in consolidating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) grip on Iran’s foreign policy apparatus and fostering an assertive regional stance. Renowned for his close rapport with Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Qods Force of the IRGC, and its proxies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Abdollahian wielded significant influence over the regime’s regional strategies and support for various militant factions. His absence disrupts the delicate equilibrium of power within the regime, leaving it strategically weakened and vulnerable.

This episode will act as a catalyst for a population disillusioned by the prevailing sociopolitical and economic conditions. Particularly among the younger generation, there exists a profound disdain for all that Raisi epitomized, viewing his demise as a pivotal juncture. The sustained demonstrations witnessed across Iran underscore a palpable yearning for justice and accountability. Moreover, the emergence of thousands of courageous activists across the country, operating as small teams of Resistance Units, has posed a formidable challenge to the regime’s oppressive machinery.

At this critical juncture, it is imperative for the international community to adopt a resolute stance against the Iranian theocracy. The regime’s historical response to appeasement has been marked by heightened aggression and repression, underscoring the necessity for unwavering support for the Iranian people in their pursuit of freedom. Such backing is a strategic imperative in countering the regime’s destabilizing actions.

The disruption that has followed Raisi’s death leaves the regime considerably weakened and more susceptible to internal and external pressures. It represents a significant setback for the regime, exacerbating its myriad crises.

The regime in its totality becomes weaker and more vulnerable, which only motivates the Iranian people. The international community can bolster the efforts of the Iranian people and their organized resistance that calls for a democratic republic, and catalyze meaningful change within Iran.

As the world reflects on the enduring challenges posed by the Iranian regime, it becomes abundantly clear that accountability cannot be evaded indefinitely. While Raisi may have eluded justice, the international community’s focus must now shift to Khamenei and other leaders complicit in perpetuating decades of crimes against humanity.

This pivotal moment offers a rare opportunity to champion the aspirations of the Iranian people for a democratic republic. It is incumbent upon the international community not to squander this moment but to steadfastly support the emergence of a new Iran — one founded on principles of secularism, freedom, accountability, and human rights. By standing united in this endeavor, we can pave the way for a brighter future for generations to come.

Image credit: Tasnim News Agency, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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