Death of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • Authority of the President in Iran
  • Ramifications of Raisi’s death in Iran
  • India’s concern
  • India’s response after President’s death

Why in News?

Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi, country's foreign minister and several other officials were found dead hours after their helicopter crashed in the country's northwest. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber would take over as interim president.

Authority of the President in Iran

  • Role of President
    • Iran’s President works under the authority of the Supreme Leader but is still a powerful figure in Iran's political system. 
    • He plays a key role in how the country operates. 
    • The President mediates between the legislature and the executive, and appoints ministers and vice presidents.
    • The President also makes key foreign policy decisions. Then President Hassan Rouhani acted with significant authority during the JCPOA negotiations.
      • The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, is an agreement signed in July 2015 between Iran and the P5+1.
      • The agreement limits Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
    • The Iranian President’s authority is superseded only in the event of a clash between him and the Supreme Leader.
  • Major achievements of Ibrahim Raisi as a President
    • Among Raisi’s major achievements was the Iran-Saudi deal, brokered by China. 
    • It was he who raised the pitch for an ‘Axis of Resistance’,
      • It is an informal, Iran-led political-military coalition comprising the Islamic resistance in Iraq, the Syrian government, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Yemeni Houthis, and Palestinian groups including Hamas.

Ramifications of Raisi’s death in Iran

  • Conservatives Vs. reformists
    • Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran’s politics has developed between two poles.
    • On the one side are the conservatives who want to strictly follow the principles of Twelver Shi’ism, the state religion. 
      • They aim to enforce its religious codes throughout society. They view the Revolution as a strong stance against Western imperialism. 
      • They have significant support, especially from the poorer sections of the population.
    • On the other side are the so-called ‘reformists’ who, while remaining loyal to the Revolution, want more flexibility both in domestic and international matters.
      • For instance, they support greater rights for women, strengthening civil society and human rights.
      • They also want free elections and more conciliatory relations with the West.
    • The untimely death of Raisi will result in increased tussle between conservatives and reformists has been the central theme in Iranian politics.
      • President Raisi was considered to be a hardline cleric, had been seen as the likely successor to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • On succession
    • According to Iran’s Constitution, the First Vice President takes over in case the President dies or is incapacitated. 
      • There are several appointed Vice Presidents in Iran, who serve in the Iranian Cabinet. 
      • The office of the First Vice President is considered to be the first among equals.
    • This is Mohammad Mokhber, who was appointed by President Raisi to the post in August 2021.
      • He will serve as President until an election to the post of President can be held, which must happen within the next 50 days.

India’s concern

  • Iran as part of its extended neighbourhood
    • India, which considers Iran to be part of its extended neighbourhood, has been watching Iran’s dynamics in the region quite closely and cautiously.
    • The assessment in Delhi is that the supreme leader Ali Khamenei being the most powerful player in the Iranian establishment is around.
    • Hence, the death of President Raisi will not create a political vacuum. 
  • Iran’s response after the war in Gaza
    • Iran’s response after the war in Gaza, and the Israeli attack on its consulate in Syria which killed a top Iranian military officer, was a direct attack on Israel in April 2024.
    • Israel being a close friend of India, India will be keenly watching the political development in Iran after Rais’s death. 
  • Iran’s active support to some of the regional groups during Raisi’s regime
    • Iran’s active support to some of the regional groups, often referred to as the 3Hs — Hezbollah, Houthis and the Hamas — is seen to have impacted the peace and stability in the region. 
    • While Hezbollah has kept Israel busy on the northern border, the Houthis attacks on the ships passing through the Red Sea had disrupted the shipping sea routes for maritime trade.
  • India was actively engaging with Raisi’s regime
    • In August 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with President Raisi in Johannesburg on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit.
      • As a result, both the countries signed a long-term contract on Chabahar Port in May 2024.
    • External Affairs minister S Jaishankar had also engaged with Iranian Foreign Amir, that had been key to securing Indian interests.
      • The latest one being the release of Indian sailors who were on board a ship that was seized by the Iranian navy.
  • Various agreements between both the countries
    • The two countries had signed a friendship treaty on March 15, 1950, and the visit of PM Vajpayee to Iran and the signing of the Tehran Declaration in April 2001.
    • However, the relationship was hampered by Delhi’s proximity to the US, signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal, and Iran’s nuclear programme faced sanctions.
      • India has not been able to buy oil since 2018, and managed to get a waiver on the Chabahar port citing access to Afghanistan as the key reason.

India’s response after President’s death

  • PM Modi expressed grief
    • Modi expressed grief over the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
  • One-day state mourning
    • A one-day state mourning will be observed across India on May 21 as a mark of respect for the Iranian President.

Q.1. What does supreme leader mean in Iran?

The Supreme Leader is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the provisional head of the three branches of the state (the Judiciary, the Legislature, and the Executive).

Q.2. What is Iran’s first Vice-President?

There are several appointed Vice Presidents in Iran, who serve in the Iranian Cabinet. The office of the First Vice President is considered to be the first among equals.

Source: An Expert Explains: What Ebrahim Raisi’s death means for Iran | Indian Express | BBC | India Today