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Iran: the death of President Raïssi reshuffles the cards for the succession of the supreme guide

After the death in a helicopter crash of Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi, until then considered As the likely successor to supreme guide Ali Khamenei, the spotlight is on the guide's son, Mojtaba.

Even if it remains difficult to read the functioning of the regime, opaque and complex, the curriculum of the deceased president, pillar of the Islamic Republic for decades, made him a natural candidate to become the third Iranian guide since the 1979 revolution, after Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei.

The supreme guide is appointed for life by an Assembly of Experts and decides on all crucial subjects , including the country's foreign policy. Ali Khamenei, 85, has been in office since Khomeini's death in 1989.

Since becoming guide, Khamenei has appointed Raisi, his “long-time confidant”, to several major positions, including the presidency of the judicial system, reports the director of the think tank for the Middle East and global order (CMEG ) Ali Fathollah-Nejad, although it is “very difficult to say” whether he had decided that he would be his successor.

“Only a handful of senior leaders know if Raïssi should become the next supreme guide”, also estimate analysts Ali Vaez and Naysan Rafati, in a note from the International Crisis Group (ICG). “But if that were the case, his death raises a big question mark over the succession.”

– 'Reshuffled cards' –

Eyes are now turning towards the guide's son, Mojtaba Khamenei, 54, a shadowy man with considerable influence, a personality sanctioned by the United States. “Khamenei has long sought to position his son as his successor,” according to Ali Fathollah-Nejad, even if “dynastic power” is not well regarded within the regime.

“However, with the disappearance of Raïssi, the cards of Khamenei's succession are reshuffled, and attention returns to Mojtaba”, adds the director of CMEG, based in Berlin.

Rarely appearing in public, almost never mentioned in the media, and without official function, Mojtaba Khamenei is, according to analysts, number 2 in the supreme guide's cabinet, behind leader Mohammad Golpayegani.

His importance was revealed by the sanctions taken against him in 2019 by the US Treasury, judging that Ali Khamenei had “delegated part of his responsibilities” to him.< /p>

Mojtaba is “the most important candidate”, who has accumulated “considerable power behind the scenes”, believes Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution.

However, analysts do not rule out that another name could come out of the hat, citing in particular Ali Reza Arafi, a religious dignitary member of the Assembly of Experts and the Council of Revolutionary Guards, the armed wing of the regime.

– 'Cracks' –

Stability and continuity should in any case be the first priorities of the regime, after the demonstrations that have shaken Iran for months since the death in September 2022 of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurd arrested by the moral police for non-compliance with the strict Islamic dress code.

< p>The “Femme.Vie.Liberté” protest movement was harshly repressed but has not died out in this country where the conservatives have concentrated all the powers in recent years.

Even if the president's powers are limited, Raisi's death nevertheless caused shock in Iran. Before him, only one president died in office, Mohammad Ali Rajai, killed in August 1981 in a bomb attack less than a month after taking office.

Iran: the death of President Raïssi reshuffles the cards for the succession of the supreme guide

Raisi has held a succession of top posts within the Islamic republic © AFP – ATTA KENARE

The period of succession will prove risky for those in power, believes Ali Fathollah-Nejad, while internal protest is still brewing, and the economic crisis is worsening, notably due to Western sanctions.

“If Khamenei dies and/or if Mojtaba is declared his successor, new popular demonstrations cannot be ruled out”, he believes.

“The big question is whether in a scenario of power vacuum or contested succession, we could see fissures within the power and security apparatus, opening a perspective on the unknown”, he adds.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116