Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and foreign minister confirmed dead in helicopter crash

The president and foreign minister both championed the creation a multipolar world order and pushed for concrete solidarity with countries facing repeated imperialist onslaught

May 20, 2024 by Abdul Rahman
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei (L) and Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi. Photo: Press TV

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, the Iranian government confirmed in a statement on Monday, May 20 after a nightlong search operation.

Raisi “the eighth president of Iran, has been martyred after a helicopter carrying him and his entourage crashed in the Varzaghan region in the northwest province of East Azarbaijan on Sunday,” Islamic Republic News Agency, IRNA reported citing the statement.

According to the reports on Sunday, three helicopters carrying Raisi and Iranian Foreign Minister Husseain Amir Abdollahian, the governor of East Azarbaijan Malek Rahmati and others were flying to Iran’s Tabriz city after Raisi inaugurated Qiz Qalasi Dam at the border with Azerbaijan. The helicopter then was trapped in bad weather crashing in the hilly area. All of them have been reported dead in the crash along with the crew of the helicopter.

Though there is no official confirmation, as per the initial findings, the reasons for the crash were attributed to bad weather conditions in the region.

Mohammad Mokbher, the first vice president, has taken charge as interim president of the country. He will remain in the post until the elections which, as per the Iranian constitution, must be held within 50 days of the demise of the serving president.

Raisi (63) was elected president in June 2021 winning over 61% of the popular vote and defeating his nearest rival Mohsen Rezaei by a huge margin. Raisi and Abdollahian were considered as hardliners in Iranian politics and close to the conservative camp led by the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Before being elected as president, Raisi had served in several positions. He was the head of Iran’s judiciary, a member of the Expediency Council which advises the supreme leader and vice president of the Assembly of Experts which elects the successor of the supreme leader.

Raisi had first contested the presidential elections unsuccessfully against Hassan Rouhani in 2017. It was expected that he would be contesting the next presidential election scheduled to be held in 2025.

Numerous world leaders have expressed their condolences and grief on the news of Raisi’s demise including president of Venezuela Nicholas Maduro, former Bolivian president Evo Morales Ayma and Chinese president Xi Jinping among others.

Raisi: Champion of anti-imperialist unity 

Raisi was a key figure in driving Iran’s push against US unilateral coercive measures domestically and alliance building with nations of the Global South. Raisi government defied US pressures against Iran’s independent foreign policy on issues related to its nuclear program and Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and its role in the larger West and Central Asia. His government, through the foreign minister Abdollahian took measures to undo the US pressure by taking an uncompromising position vis-a-vis JCPOA during the talks in Vienna and initiated a policy of rapprochement with its neighbors.

In order to counter the economic and political impact of the unilateral sanctions imposed by the US following its unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018, Raisi’s administration worked to develop stronger relationships with like-minded countries from across the world. His government pursued the policy of consolidating relations with China and Russia and became an important player in their efforts to create a multipolar world order by joining both Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS as full members.

Raisi’s government signed a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia in March 2023 under Chinese mediation ending years of conflict over regional influence between both the countries. It also solidified the relations with regional countries such as Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Lebanon.

Raisi made state visits to several countries in Africa and Latin America who have been subject to illegal unilateral sanctions by the US and its European allies such as Venezuela and Cuba. Iran had provided crucial support to countries like Syria, Lebanon and Venezuela during the moments of their economic and political crisis created due to imperialist interventions.

Raisi’s government had taken a strong pro-Palestinian line as well and was at the forefront of the global campaign to oppose Israeli war in Gaza and demand international intervention to end the genocide of Palestinian people.

Iran under Raisi’s leadership was trying to strengthen the collective regional response to Israeli occupation and US imperialism with repeated demands for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the region and open support to the axis of resistance forces in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Iran under Raisi did not shy away from taking retaliatory actions against both the US and Israel including the launch of hundreds of missiles and drones in Israel last month following the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus.