Iran president’s death sparks political uncertainity

The supreme leader, referred to as the “velayat-e faqih” in Shiite Islamic theology, is the top authority in Iran, making all key decisions about the country. This role, created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, serves as both the head of state and the commander in chief.

After Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash on May 19, the country plans to elect a new president on June 28. Raisi’s death is especially important because he was expected to take over from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 84, who is Iran’s supreme leader and holds a very powerful position in the Middle East.

Iran’s supreme leader and Presidential Powers ?

The supreme leader, referred to as the “velayat-e faqih” in Shiite Islamic theology, is the top authority in Iran, making all key decisions about the country. This role, created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, serves as both the head of state and the commander in chief.

He also has control over the national police and the morality police.

Ayatollah Khamenei has authority over the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), responsible for internal security, and its volunteer branch, the Basij Resistance Force, which is used to suppress dissent in Iran.

Only men can become Iran’s supreme leader. This position is reserved for top Shiite theologians based on the country’s Islamic law. The supreme leader is chosen by a group of Islamic jurists. Although this group (panel of Islamic Jurists)  is elected by the public, candidates must first be approved by the Guardian Council. The Guardian Council consists of members, half of whom are appointed by the supreme leader and the other half by the parliament.

Iran’s president leads the executive branch of the government and is elected every four years, but candidates need approval from the Guardian Council. The president manages the government and, depending on their political experience and power, can have significant influence over state policies and the economy.

Candidates” refers to individuals who are running for the position of president in Iran.

He manages the daily operations of the government and has considerable influence over both domestic policy and foreign affairs.

The president’s interior ministry manages the national police force. However, the commander of the police was appointed by the supreme leader and reports directly to him.

The commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps and the Basij is also appointed by the supreme leader and reports directly to him.

What is morality Police ?

The morality police, also known as Guidance Patrols, are part of the national police force. They were created in 2005 to enforce Islamic morals and dress codes introduced after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The force includes an estimated 7,000 male and female officers who can issue warnings, fines, or arrest people for violations.

A few weeks before the protests in the summer of 2022, President Raisi ordered stricter enforcement of Iran’s “hijab and chastity law, (refrainingfrom extramaritalactivities)” requiring women to dress and act modestly. Surveillance cameras were installed to catch women not wearing the hijab, and a mandatory prison sentence was introduced for those opposing the hijab rules on social media.

Who are Revolutionary Guards?

The IRGC is Iran’s primary organization for internal security and has become a significant military, political, and economic power in the country, with over 150,000 members.

The IRGC has its own ground forces, navy, and air force, and it manages Iran’s strategic weapons.

It also has an overseas unit called the Quds Force, which secretly supplies money, weapons, technology, and training to allies in the Middle East.

Additionally, it controls the Basij Resistance Force.

What is the Basij?

The Basij Resistance Force, officially called the Organisation for the Mobilisation of the Oppressed, was established in 1979 as a volunteer paramilitary group.

“Oppressed” refers to a state where individuals or groups are subjected to unjust treatment or control, often by a more powerful entity. This typically involves the denial of fundamental rights, harsh and authoritarian treatment, and a lack of freedom. Oppression can occur on social, political, economic, or cultural levels.

It has branches in every province and city in Iran and operates within many of the country’s official institutions.

Its male and female members, known as “Basijis,” are loyal to the revolution and follow orders from the IRGC.

Around 100,000 Basijis are believed to handle internal security duties.

They have played a major role in suppressing anti-government protests since the disputed presidential election of 2009.

Iran Announces New Interim President

Mohammad Mokhber, formerly the first vice president, has been appointed as the interim president. Mokhber has a background as an officer in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iran’s top military force, and previously led an organization that manages the country’s assets. Along with the judiciary chief and the parliament speaker, he is responsible for organizing the upcoming presidential election.

In an effort to calm any public worries about the government’s stability, Khamenei addressed Raisi’s absence on the evening of his death, even before it was officially confirmed. He assured the public that there would be no disruptions to the country’s operations.

Why did Raisi’s helicopter crash?

Raisi was on his way back from an event at the Azerbaijan border when his helicopter crashed in a foggy mountainous region. All nine people on board, including Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, were killed. Authorities blamed the crash on a “technical failure.” The BBC reported that Raisi’s helicopter was a Bell 212, an American model that began service in 1968 and was discontinued in 1998. Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has faced significant restrictions on buying new aircraft or parts from major US and European suppliers. As a result, Iran operates some of the oldest and most basic helicopters still in use and depends on its engineers to maintain them with limited access to new materials.

How Will Raisi’s Death Affect the Next Supreme Leader?

In Iran’s complex and secretive political system, discussions about who will replace Khamenei are rarely held in public or official forums. However, analysts, officials, and academics with ties to the political establishment have long considered both Raisi and Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba, as leading candidates for the position.

With Raisi’s death, Mojtaba is now viewed as having a clear path to becoming the supreme leader. However, appointing him could be risky. Iran’s leaders from the 1979 revolution were strongly against any form of inherited rule, as they had overthrown the monarchy to establish the current system.

Mojtaba’s popularity is untested since he doesn’t hold a government position and is rarely seen in public. For the supreme leader to be seen as legitimate, there needs to be an appearance of genuine support from the people who uphold the current religious system.

What Impact Will Raisi’s Absence Have on the Middle East?

Raisi’s death might affect Iran’s ties with the Middle East. Iran supports groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, which oppose Israel, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who disrupt shipping in the Red Sea. The Iran  Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will try to ensure that Iran’s enemies don’t take advantage of this situation. Raisi had improved relations with Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a trend that will likely continue, although a new president might change other aspects of foreign policy.

(Views expressed in the article are of author’s own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Business Upturn)