The Next President Is Not the Real Crisis.. Khamenei’s Successor Sparks Unrest in Iran

The Japanese newspaper “Japan Times” shed light on the impact of the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a plane crash earlier this month, particularly given that the position of Iranian president is largely honorary since the supreme leader in Iran is the primary controller of Iranian political life.

Honorary Position

The newspaper reported that the absolute power in Iran does not rest in the hands of the president, but rather in the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the latter being a dominant economic force controlling the leadership heights of the country’s economy.

The newspaper continued, stating that beyond his incompetence, Raisi was known for his role in the summary executions of over 4,000 political prisoners in 1988. A few years ago, when some open discussion about this infamous incident took place in Iran, Raisi boldly suggested that he deserved a human rights award for purging the world of the corrupting influence of those sentenced to death. A prominent speaker at Raisi‘s funeral promised that “his deadly acts in the eighties” would continue unabated.

The newspaper added that less than three years ago, Raisi was nominally “elected” to the presidency in the most engineered elections in the history of engineered elections in Iran. By eliminating all other potentially competitive candidates, Khamenei appointed Raisi to this position.

Successor to the Supreme Leader

The newspaper clarified that the current vacancy of the Iranian presidency is not a significant issue, as unrest has increased following the diagnosis of Supreme Leader Khamenei with cancer, an elderly man in his eighties.

The newspaper added that guessing who would be Khamenei‘s successor in the elections and who would be excluded has become the crisis in Iran. Given Raisi‘s rise from a minor judge, albeit a killer, to head of the judiciary and then to the presidency, many assumed he was being groomed to become the next supreme leader. Now, after Raisi‘s death, some talk of a succession crisis, and in reality, his death has triggered a comprehensive legitimacy crisis for the regime.

Succession Crisis

The newspaper explained that despite overwhelming evidence suggesting that Khamenei‘s chosen successor is one of his sons – the mysterious Mojtaba, who has long remained in the shadows – some critics in the West point to Khamenei‘s aversion to hereditary rule as evidence that he does not want his son to succeed him and preferred to appoint Raisi as his successor.

The newspaper continued that such an assumption contradicts Khamenei‘s behavior and Shia doctrine. Khamenei, who offers, by decree or law, views on almost every aspect of politics, culture, and literature, and whose supporters declare his words as “decisive,” could simply declare that his son is not a candidate to succeed him. He has done no such thing. Moreover, Reuters reported that “sources familiar with the matter” said that the Assembly of Experts, a deliberative body overseeing the supreme leader, had removed Raisi‘s name from the list of candidates six months ago.

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