/ 21 May 2024

Iran’s President Raisi dies in a chopper crash

Ebrahim Raisi

The Squiz 

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has been confirmed dead after his helicopter crashed in Iran’s mountainous northwest on Sunday night. Reports say Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian and 7 other passengers were returning from the border region near Azerbaijan when the chopper made a “hard landing” in heavy fog. Pictures broadcast on Iranian state-run TV showed burning debris and the first rescuers at the scene saying “there is no sign of any of the passengers being alive”. A Turkish drone had located the crash site earlier in the day but the icy weather and rugged terrain meant it took a while for anyone to reach it.

What’s the lowdown on Raisi?

The President was a powerful figure in Iran – in terms of the nation’s org chart, he answered to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who is the most significant authority figure in the Islamic Republic. But the 63yo Raisi had positioned himself as the Supreme Leader’s successor… He was the one who ordered the brutal crackdown in 2022 over women not wearing a head-covering – that huge uprising that extended across the country went on for months and was ultimately quashed by authorities. Before that, Raisi was Iran’s Chief Justice and Attorney-General, and had earned the nickname “butcher of Tehran” for ordering the deaths of political prisoners in the 1980’s. 

What does it mean for the Middle East? 

We know the region is already a tinderbox… The war in Gaza has spilled over borders a few times, including last month when Iran launched hundreds of missiles at Israel in retaliation for the bombing of its consulate in Syria, and the escalating tit-for-tat has raised concerns about a wider war. Iran has long called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and is the major backer of Palestinian resistance. Experts say Iran will want to project an image of stability, and to that end, the Ayatollah has already said that there will be “no disruption” to the work of the government. Australian leaders haven’t yet commented, but condolence messages were sent from around the world, including from India, China and the UN.

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