Khamenei’s Son, “The Man in the Shadows,” Pursues Succession After Raisi’s Death

Before his death, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was seen as the front-runner for a potential succession to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

However, following Raisi‘s death in a helicopter crash in a mountainous region of northwest Iran on Sunday evening, Khamenei’s son, “the man in the shadows,” has emerged as a leading contender for succession.

Before confirming the death, the 85-year-old Khamenei father called for prayers for the missing president’s soul and vowed that the incident would not throw the country into chaos.

He said, “The Iranian people should not worry: there will be no disruption in the country’s affairs.”

Raisi’s burnt helicopter wreckage, reduced to its tail, was found among trees after hours of searching in the fog-filled mountain valleys of Dizmar forest near the border with Azerbaijan.


Raisi was returning from a visit to the Azerbaijani border, where he had met President Ilham Aliyev. Together, they had cut the ribbon on a large dam along the Araz River.

Khameneis Son, a Potential Successor?

In recent years, Raisi’s loyalty had fueled speculation about his ability to succeed Khamenei as Supreme Leader, which would grant him the final say in all major political decisions.

But his death, according to observers, increases the belief among many Iranians that Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba, will become the front-runner in the race to succeed his father.

In this regard, Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the American newspaper “Politico”: “Raïssi represents a younger version of the Iranian revolutionary elite – far less competent, but much more zealous.”

He added, “These are the people Khamenei wants in power – Raisi’s death narrows the process of selecting his successor, and Khamenei’s son is one of the potential candidates.”

He continued, “After helping oversee the increasingly hostile confrontation between his country, Israel, and the West, and facing growing social discontent and domestic economic distress, Raisi had many enemies.”

Who is Mojtaba Khamenei?


Mojtaba, 55, holds no official government position. However, American and Iranian officials have said he manages his father’s business empire and influences the appointment of security officials, according to the “Wall Street Journal.”

At times, according to the newspaper, Mojtaba supervised key parts of Iran’s security apparatus, which came under renewed scrutiny after violent clashes between police and protesters following the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in 2022 while in police custody for violating hijab laws.

To Saeid Golkar, an expert on Iran’s security apparatus, Mojtaba is “a powerful shadow behind the scenes.”

In late August 2022, Iran’s religious establishment elevated the younger Khamenei to the rank of Ayatollah, a prestigious religious title necessary to become the Supreme Leader of Iran.

Sources told the “Wall Street Journal” at the time that the appointment came as his father’s health deteriorated in recent weeks.

However, such a succession was by no means guaranteed, until the death of Raisi, whom the American newspaper described as a cleric close to the Supreme Leader with greater political credentials and a well-known public persona.


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