×
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Iran has a chance to reset course

Iran has a chance to reset course

All eyes are now on Tehran to see how it handles the challenge of leadership transition at a fraught time in the country's history.

Follow Us :

Last Updated : 21 May 2024, 23:26 IST
Last Updated : 21 May 2024, 23:26 IST
Comments

The death of Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash has added fresh uncertainty in a region roiled by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The war began after an attack by Hamas, an Iranian protege. The actions of Iranian proxies Hezbollah and the Houthis are threatening to escalate the conflict.

In recent months, Israel's bombing of an Iranian military facility in Syria, and the exchange of missile fire between Iran and Pakistan, underlined the potential dangers in the region. Only an investigation will reveal the details of the helicopter crash, which also killed Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and a number of officials.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ali-Baqeri Kani has been named the new Foreign Minister. While the First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber is now interim President, the Iranian Constitution mandates the holding of new elections within 50 days in such circumstances.

All eyes are now on Tehran to see how it handles the challenge of leadership transition at a fraught time in the country's history. 

A hardliner who came up through the Sharia judiciary, Raisi had ‘defeated’ his moderate reform-minded predecessor Hassan Rouhani to win the 2021 presidential election in which pro-reform candidates were disqualified en masse.

A record low turnout in the election had tainted Raisi's mandate from the start. He had made up for his lack of popular legitimacy by doubling down on religious conservatism, and was reportedly positioning himself as the successor to Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei.

An advocate of gender segregation, his legacy at home was the ruthless crackdown on Iranian civil society when protests by women -- from 2022 through most of 2023 -- threatened his grip on power.

The executions during this period brought back memories of his role in the 1988 political executions that earned him the moniker ‘Butcher of Tehran’ in the Western press.

It is no surprise that sections of Iranians reportedly celebrated his death. On the foreign policy front, Raisi led Iran's rapprochement with Saudi Arabia through a pact brokered by China and also brought Iran and Russia closer, supplying weapons to Moscow for Putin’s war on Ukraine. But he could do nothing to repair Iran's broken economy, suffering under years of US sanctions.

While the reflex of most entrenched establishments at moments like this is to choose continuity over change, Raisi's sudden departure from the scene presents Iran with an opportunity to climb out of the hole into which it has dug itself.

The 85-year-old Ayatollah Khamenei, the all-powerful leader who has been in office since 1989, now holds the destiny of the country in his hands. He could use the election to choose a successor to Raisi, which are to be held on June 28, to effect and signal change in Iran, starting by allowing moderates to contest and making it a real contest. Beyond this is, of course, the question of his own successor.

ADVERTISEMENT

Follow us on :

Follow Us

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT