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Ebrahim Raisi dead: Iran set for major 'power struggle' as deputy takes over


The death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is set to exacerbate intense rivalry among administrative staff and the military, according to a regional expert.

Raisi was confirmed dead on the morning of May 20 after an hours-long search for him and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian following a helicopter crash.

State TV gave no immediate cause for the crash in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.

Dr Hamidreza Azizi assessed the impact of Raisi’s death on the running of Iran, noting his first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, would take over until elections can be held over the summer.

And he warned his connections with top members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will likely result in an intensification of their involvement in the government – leading to a “struggle” with administrative staff.

Writing on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, Dr Azizi said: “Under Article 131 of #Iran’s Constitution, First VP Mohammad Mokhber will temporarily assume Raisi’s duties with the Supreme Leader’s approval. A council must organize a new presidential election within 50 days.

“Mokhber’s ties to the IRGC’s core leadership will guarantee that the IRGC’s role in #Iran’s administration will remain intact and even intensify. His interim presidency may pave the way for even more overt IRGC control over administrative policies.

“Raisi’s death intensifies internal power struggles. Already, factions within the hardline camp were competing for the Speaker of Parliament role. Now, this rivalry will extend to the presidency, with different factions vying for dominance.”

The SWP Berlin visiting fellow, however, suggested Raisi’s death is unlikely to affect Iran’s strategic goals in terms of foreign policy.

He added: “Strategic decisions are set by the Supreme Leader and the IRGC, not the president. Expect continued rigidity in US relations and regional policies.

“Overall, the implications of Raisi’s death would not be fundamental or a decisive blow to the system.

“It will impact intra-hardliner competition but not the strategic direction of the Islamic Republic in foreign or domestic politics.”

The Iranian government held an “urgent meeting” soon after Raisi and Amirabdollahian were confirmed dead, according to state news agency IRNA.

Photos taken ahead of the meeting showed Raisi’s chair had been left empty and was draped with a black sash.

The crash comes as the Middle East remains unsettled by the Israel-Hamas war, during which Raisi under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei launched an unprecedented drone-and-missile attack on Israel just last month.

Under Raisi, Iran enriched uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels, further escalating tensions with the West as Tehran also supplied bomb-carrying drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine and armed militia groups across the region.

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