Raisi, President of Iran, proclaimed dead after crash

Photo Credit: Hussein Zurvand, Wikipedia

The crash and the search

For many hours, in severe weather conditions, the Red Crescent, the Iranian army, and rescue teams from Russia, Turkey and Qatar searched for the helicopter in which Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir Abd-Elihan were flying in the middle of a forest in northern Iran, together with two provincial governors and five other staff members. The Red Crescent has now announced that the remains of the crashed aircraft have been found, and that they are, according to an Iranian source: “Totally burned.”

Earlier, the Iranian military said, “We are thoroughly scanning every inch of the crash site,” adding, “There are very cold, rainy and nebulous weather conditions here. The rain is gradually turning into snow.” According to a report by the state-run IRNA news agency, search and rescue teams found it difficult to conduct overnight searches in a wooded and mountainous area, while a blizzard was raging.

After reports of the “serious incident” suffered by the aircraft carrying the senior figures, Russia, Qatar and Turkey, Iran’s closest allies, search and rescue teams, sent to assist in the search for the missing. The Russian government announced on Telegram “at the request of Tehran, rescue forces from the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations will assist in the search for the helicopter,” Moscow further detailed “the team is heading toward Tabriz, and includes 47 experts with the required equipment, SUVs and BO-105 helicopters.”

The White House said on Wednesday that U.S. President Joe Biden had been updated in the Iranian incident, and that the U.S. State Department was “closely monitoring” the reports. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer commented on the affair, saying, “There was very bad weather, foggy, in northwest Iran, where the helicopter crashed. The incident looks like an accident, but it is still being investigated.”

The deceased and us

The president of Iran who was killed is considered the second most important in the Islamic Republic, after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and heads the executive branch. Under his responsibility, extensive powers are concentrated in the management of the state, including the areas of the economy and the interior. He leads the government, designs Iranian policy, is responsible for its implementation, and commands many state bodies, such as the Supreme National Security Council, which outlines the strategy in foreign affairs and security.

Raisi, who was elected president in 2021, was one of the most conservative politicans in Iran. His attitude toward foreign affairs and security was particularly hawkish, and his speeches were full of hatred and anger toward Israel and the West. Since the outbreak of the war, Raisi has supported Hezbollah and Hamas, both diplomatically and practically. Raisi was also the first Iranian president to launch an attack against Israel – the missile attack that took place a little over a month ago.

What is happening in Iran now? Technically speaking, the Iranian constitution instructs that if a president dies in the line of duty, his deputy temporarily fills the positions, after receiving approval from the Supreme Leader. A council composed of the first vice president, the chairman of the parliament and the head of the judiciary is then tasked with organizing further presidential elections within a maximum of 50 days.

The Iranian foreign minister who was killed with him was in good contact with Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, and has been lashing out in Israel since the outbreak of the war. Among other things, he appealed to the UN secretary-general to investigate “the crimes taking place in Rafah,” accused Israel of “increasing regional tension,” and threatened after the Israeli attack on Iran that “we will take immediate steps against Israel if it tries to attack us again.”


There are two significant effects of Raisi’s death: First of all, although the Iranian government is currently posing as “business as usual,” it is clear that the disappearance of two of the most prominent people from the decision-making table will create instability, temporary difficulty in setting policy, and in general – the turning of the gaze, temporarily at least, to the inside and not the outside. Iran will be busy in the near future, especially with itself and with an attempt to prevent collateral damage, so this reduces pressure from Israel on the extent of Iran’s involvement in the war, both on the northern and southern fronts.

And secondly, in the long run, Raisi was a natural candidate for Khamenei’s replacement as the Supreme Leader, with the 85-year-old leader coming off the stage one way or another. Raisi’s hawkish line would have ensured repeated clashes with Israel for decades ahead; Raisi’s death opens the door for alternative candidates – some of whom may be less hawkish toward Israel and the world, and perhaps more open to reforms to which the Islamic Republic is in need.

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