Death of Raisi: Possible Destabilization in Iran Is Concerning

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died suddenly when a helicopter that he was in crashed.

How will the unexpected death of the leader of a regional power affect the situation in the Middle East? The situation must be closely monitored.

Raisi was traveling by helicopter to the site of his next event after attending a ceremony to mark the start of operations at a dam in the border region neighboring Azerbaijan. Iranian state media reported that bad weather, including rain and fog, was likely the cause of the crash.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was onboard the helicopter and also killed. We would like to express our condolences over the deaths from the crash.

In the wake of the sudden death of the president, First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will reportedly assume the presidential duties for the time being. A new president will be chosen in an election that must be held within 50 days.

In Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ranks above the president. However, at the old age of 84, active debates have been taking place behind the scenes in recent years regarding Khamenei’s successor. Raisi had been viewed as the most likely candidate to succeed the supreme leader.

With the death of the leading candidate, there are concerns about political conflict and confusion in the future.

In recent years, Iran’s economy has been battered by Western sanctions, and public frustration toward the regime has been growing. Anti-regime demonstrations have occurred in Iran many times in the past, and the regime has suppressed its citizens.

If Iran becomes unstable alongside the ongoing chaos in the Middle East, including the fighting in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, the crisis could spread to the entire international community. It is important for Iran to consolidate its new political regime as quickly as possible.

The international community’s concerns now are whether Iran’s diplomatic stance will change.

Raisi, who assumed the presidency in 2021, maintained a policy of regarding Israel as its enemy and militarily supported armed groups in the Middle East. He also confronted the West over Iran’s nuclear development program, continuing to raise tensions.

There is a widespread view that Iran’s hard-line approach will remain unchanged after the death of Raisi, as long as Khamenei maintains his hold on power. Meanwhile, public frustration with the government is said to be reaching its peak, and it is argued that Iran may not be able to stand on its own.

Iran should rethink its policy of supporting armed groups in Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere. It would be in Iran’s national interest to take steps to ease tensions and promote stability in the region.

Japan should take advantage of its historically friendly relations with Iran and act as a bridge through such measures as encouraging Iran, the West and other countries to work to reestablish the nuclear agreement.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 21, 2024)