Iran President Was on Track to Be Supreme Leader

Tehran cites 'technical failure' for chopper crash, as one former official blames US sanctions
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2024 11:04 AM CDT
No Evidence of Foul Play in Iran Helicopter Crash
A man holds a portrait of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a candlelight vigil outside the Iran Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Monday.   (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

So far, it doesn't appear that anything sinister is behind the helicopter crash that killed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and several other officials. On Monday, Iran blamed an unspecified "technical failure," reports the New York Times. "No foreign involvement at all," one senior White House official tells NBC News, echoing a sentiment voiced earlier by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The chopper went down in a remote, mountainous region of northwestern Iran amid dense fog after Raisi had attended the inauguration of a dam.

  • One bit of blame: A former Iranian foreign minister blamed US sanctions in part for the crash, reports Business Insider. Mohammad Javad Zarif said those sanctions have led to a scarcity of spare helicopter parts. The crash, he said, would be "recorded in the black list of American crimes against the Iranian nation." Reuters reports the helicopter was a US-made Bell 212.

  • Caretaker: Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed little-known Vice President Mohammad Mokhber to be acting president until elections are held in the coming weeks. The AP has a bio, noting that Mokhber has held numerous powerful positions despite his low profile, and that he's believed to have been "crucial in Iranian efforts to bypass Western sanctions on its oil industry."
  • What now? The death of Raisi "is not expected to disrupt the direction of Iranian policy or jolt the Islamic Republic in any consequential way," according to a BBC analysis. "But it will test a system where conservative hardliners now dominate all branches of power, both elected and unelected."
  • Dicey times: The death of 63-year-old Raisi "could hardly have come at a more volatile time for the Islamic Republic," writes Vivian Nereim in the New York Times. The economy is reeling, thanks in part to the aforementioned sanctions; tensions with Israel are on the rise; and domestic tensions are as well.
  • Rise abruptly ends: Raisi had been expected to cruise to a second term as president and was thought to have been a potential successor to the current supreme leader, who's 85, notes the Financial Times. His death "could push Iran's tense political rivalry among loyalists of the theocratic system to a new level" and "also test the unity of regime hard-liners." Some hard-liners viewed Raisi's government as too soft, particularly in regard to women who opted not to cover their heads with veils.
(More Iran stories.)

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