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What effects would the passing of the president of Iran have on the region?

What effects would the passing of the president of Iran have on the region?
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Will Iran’s foreign policy undergo any changes? Will the status quo prevail domestically?

The death of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and eight others, including Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian, in a helicopter crash on May 19 has shocked the region. The timing of the collision was crucial. West Asia remains tense, especially following Iran’s first direct attack on Israel in April. Iran is supporting Hamas and other anti-Israel militants in Gaza’s ongoing conflict. Protests against the regime have increased domestically in recent years. Iran is currently facing uncertainty as it elects a new president.

What significance did Raisi have?

The elected president of Iran has a limited role in the semi-representative theocratic system; the Supreme Leader is chosen by a clerical group. The President is primarily in charge of managing the government’s daily operations, while the Supreme Leader—also known as “the establishment”—sets important long-term plans and objectives. However, the President and his administration have the last word over how these measures are carried out.
Iran has already witnessed conflict between the presidents and the elite as they each attempted to advance their own agendas.

Raisi, elected President in 2021, proved to be a reliable friend who followed the Supreme Leader’s directives. Raisi’s leadership indicated a significant shift from Hassan Rouhani’s efforts to engage in discussion with the West and reach a nuclear deal, which was later destroyed by the US. During Raisi’s term, Iran prioritised strategic and economic collaboration with Russia and China, increased backing for non-state groups including Hamas, Houthis, and Hezbollah, and extended its nuclear project. Tehran’s hardline approach towards Israel resulted in the April 14 drone and missile attacks.

How will his passing affect Iran’s policies?

Iran’s foreign policy is unlikely to shift much following the President’s death. However, the regime’s priority will undoubtedly shift to domestic transitions. Before Raisi’s death was officially confirmed, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei assured Iranians that government would not be affected. The Supreme Leader’s speech emphasises the importance of the system and maintaining the status quo over individual actions. Iran has lost several key officials in recent years, including Qassem Soleimani, the flamboyant Quds Force General, and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the country’s top nuclear expert. However, the loss of major figures does not impact the national project.

Raisi’s death presents two succession issues for Iran’s leadership. One priority is to promptly elect the new President. The second challenge is to find a possible successor to Mr. Khamenei. Various influential clerics, like Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, were formerly considered his potential heirs. Rafsanjani died in 2017, and Shahroudi in 2018. Raisi, a former judicial head and elected President, has been viewed as a possible replacement. His demise leaves a significant hole in Tehran’s power corridors.

What does the passing of Raisi signify for India?

Since the 1979 revolution, India has established positive relations with Iran. Despite the negative impact that US sanctions on Iran have had on trade relations in recent years, both parties have continued to support the bilateral relationship as a whole. An excellent illustration of this collaboration is the Chabhar port project, in which India has invested millions of dollars. August 2021 saw the opening of Raisi, which was visited by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar. At a time when Houthis, the Iran-backed Yemeni Shia terrorists, were attacking ships in the Red Sea, Mr. Jaishankar returned to Tehran in January to speak with its officials. India declined to join a coalition headed by the United States to combat the Houthis.

India formalised a long-term agreement that has been in the works for years earlier this month to build and run one of the port of Chabahar’s two terminals. The day following the tragedy, on May 20, Mr. Jaishankar stated that President Raisi and Foreign Minister Abdollahian’s “interest and initiative” allowed India and Iran to come to an agreement in Chabahar. India used caution in avoiding being directly involved in the West Asian crises.
India voiced serious worries as hostilities erupted between Iran and Israel, but it refrained from denouncing any side. The fact that New Delhi still prioritises maintaining the current momentum in relations is demonstrated by the fact that Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar of India travelled to Tehran to offer condolences.

ABHISHEK VERMA


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