EDITORIAL: Iran is observing five-day mourning for President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian who have died along with five others in a helicopter crash. Pakistan also declared a national day of mourning with the national flag flying at half-mast as a gesture of solidarity with its brotherly neighbouring country.

And the Islamic republic being a significant player on the international scene, the UN Security Council observed a minute of silence to pay respect to the late president and his entourage. Messages of condolences poured in from all across the world, including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, and the Gulf Emirates.

And, of course, the besieged Hamas in Gaza paid its tribute to the departed leader’s resolute “support for the Palestinian resistance and the tireless efforts in solidarity with the Palestinian people”. Meanwhile, the power vacuum has been filled with the First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber taking over as interim President and Ali Baghari Kani as acting Minister of Foreign Affairs. A new leader is to be elected on June 28.

The 63-year-old President Raisi was a hard-line religious conservative widely believed to be a potential successor to the 85-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Appointed as a public prosecutor in the newly established Islamic republic, he oversaw several executions of political opponents, making him not a much liked figure among a large part of the population.

He rose through the ranks with the support of the religious establishment to occupy important positions of power. In 2017, he ran for president but lost. Second time lucky, he became president in 2021. Under his rigid rule Iran witnessed an unprecedented protest movement in 2022 over the custodial death of a young Kurdish woman, Masha Amini, who was arrested by the morality police for alleged non-compliance with the mandatory hijab rules.

The ensuing public protests roiled the country for several months, to which the security forces reacted with a severe crackdown. The movement came to a halt after nearly 500 people were killed. Later, seven young men were executed for their role in the turmoil.

On the foreign policy front, the late president made some positive moves. Under him, Iran agreed to a rapprochement deal mediated by China restoring diplomatic relations with its regional power contender, Saudi Arabia. With Pakistan a rough patch was caused by mutual concern over militant hideouts that led to an unsavoury exchange of missiles initiated by Tehran.

However, good sense soon prevailed. Last month, President Raisi visited Pakistan along with his foreign minister, setting better bilateral security and trade relations. A major challenge came his way when Israel attacked Iran’s diplomatic facility in Damascus killing seven members of its Revolutionary Guards Corps, including a senior commander and his deputy. Many thought Tehran would try to get even with the latter through its allies in the ‘Axis of Resistance’. But the response came in a volley of direct missiles and drones strike on Israel.

The demise of President Raisi is not going to change the Islamic Republic’s policies. For, the president looks after the day-to-day domestic affairs while major decisions regarding all matters of the state are made by the Supreme Leader and the National Security Council dominated by hard-liners.

Whosever gets elected in the upcoming elections will have to deal with growing public unease over economic hardships exacerbated by sanctions as well as an ultra-conservative social code of conduct.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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Az_Iz May 23, 2024 08:20pm
RIP. Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.
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