Mojtaba  and  Seyyed Ali Khamenei

Mojtaba and Seyyed Ali Khamenei

The recent helicopter crash in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which killed several high-ranking officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, has become the focal point of global media discussions. The incident on May 19 has intensified scrutiny on Iran's political stability and succession plans.

Foreign media have speculated that Raisi's increasing loyalty to the regime and his brutal methods had positioned him as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Politico that Raisi represented a younger faction of Iran's revolutionary elite. "He was one of those whom Khamenei would like to see at the helm of power. But the death of Raisi narrows down the choice of a successor. And Khamenei's son is one of the potential candidates," Taleblu said.

The death of Raisi has indeed fueled speculations about the succession of Khamenei. "Raisi's death will strengthen the confidence of many Iranians that the son of Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Mojtaba, will become the leader of the race for his father's place," a leading newspaper reported.

The potential elevation of Mojtaba Khamenei, who has kept a low public profile but wields significant influence behind the scenes, raises concerns about the consolidation of power within the Khamenei family. Such a move could exacerbate existing tensions and lead to further unrest in a country already grappling with economic challenges and widespread discontent.

Security expert Arastun Orujlu discussed the implications of the helicopter crash with ASTNA.

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Question: How would you assess the incident with the helicopter crash on May 19, in which the President and Foreign Minister of Iran, as well as other officials, were killed? Do you think this is a disaster or a diversion?

Answer: From the first day, there was only one version in connection with the incident: bad weather and a technical malfunction, but the other day the head of the Iranian Presidential Administration issued a statement saying that the weather conditions were normal. He also said that the commander of the presidential helicopter gave the order to rise above the clouds, after which communication with the helicopter was stopped. This already contradicts the official version, but no murder charges have been filed. So far, the initial official statement can be taken as a basis, but it is possible that discussions of this type around the crash will continue and different versions will appear. And the reason for this is no longer technical, but rather political. The country is preparing for elections, and now, as the struggle between the parties intensifies, certain "news" will appear in connection with the disaster. But, as already mentioned, they are more likely to be thrown in as a tool of political struggle. And then it will be even more difficult to determine where the truth is and where the speculation is. Therefore, I think the main thing now is that Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi died in a plane crash, and new presidential elections will be held in the country.

Question: In any case, regardless of whether it is a disaster or a sabotage, this incident is a matter of security for one country. Who is responsible for this incident?

Answer: The causes of the accident are being investigated, but already known details give reason to conclude that there are signs of a serious systemic crisis in Iran. If a country cannot ensure the safety of its first person, it means that it has serious miscalculations both in aviation security and in general security. Of course, there are various reasons for this, and the Iranian government prefers to choose and highlight among them those that correspond to its interests. For example, former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is looking for the cause of the accident in the sanctions imposed on Iran. Although these sanctions do not affect relations with states such as China and Russia. Whose fault is it that the president used a helicopter that is 45-50 years old, while both countries have advanced aviation industries, including helicopter production? Naturally, official Tehran will not answer such questions, since in any case the responsibility lies with it, that is, with the government of Iran. Another example is the inefficient conduct of search and rescue operations in the area of the accident, which revealed the presence of common problems of the management system in the country. The responsibility for this also lies with the Government of the country.

Question: There are also those who present this incident as a diversion and the result of internal strife. And if this incident is caused by external factors, then who can be behind it? If this is the result of internal hostility, what do those who did this want to achieve by eliminating the president?

Answer: As already mentioned, new presidential elections have been announced in the country, and now that the struggle between ambitious candidates and factions for power has escalated, various mutual accusations will arise. Including in connection with the accident. But they will in no way serve to reveal the truth. Therefore, it will also be more difficult to say what is true and what is fiction. Moreover, the current struggle will also go on to become the successor of the Supreme Religious Leader, who is the real head of the country.

Thus, we can expect a tougher fight than the previous competition. As for the possibility that someone set up the accident of Raisi, here the accusations can be addressed to both internal and external enemies. There will be nothing new with regard to external enemies, because there are ready-made recipes here: the United States, Israel and some third states in the service of the Zionists. In my opinion, there may be more interesting accusations against internal enemies, and there are appropriate conditions for this too. For example, the long-term internal strife between conventional "conservatives" and "moderates" may now reach a culmination. And this would mean not only a new political situation for Iran, but also the emergence of new paradigms. In other words, the talk is not about the personality or role of Ibrahim Raisi, who is not one of the brightest figures in the history of modern Iran, but rather about the power struggle built on him.  The goal is not the president, but the struggle for power, and all means will be used in this struggle.

Question: This happened a few hours after the meeting between the President of Azerbaijan and the President of Iran at the border, and very positive statements about the relations between the two countries. Relations between Azerbaijan and Iran have been cool for a long time.  Did this happen because someone did not want to improve Iranian-Azerbaijani relations?  Can the factor of relations with Azerbaijan play a role in this incident?

Answer: Such a scenario does not seem plausible. First of all, because there are other, simpler and more proven methods of severing relations between the two countries. To do this, there is no need for such a serious, complex and responsible step as the assassination of the president. Secondly, it is generally pointless to try to break off relations between Azerbaijan and Iran, since they will eventually return to their traditional course. Everyone understands perfectly well that both this meeting and the messages transmitted during it were addressed mainly to third parties. And finally, I want to say once again that there is no murder theory on the agenda. The helicopter of the Iranian president crashed in difficult weather conditions due to a technical malfunction. This is the official version. All other considerations are purely conspiratorial in nature. At least that's the reality today.

Question: Ilham Aliyev, expressing condolences at the Iranian Embassy in Baku, referring to the agreements reached at the last meeting with Raisi, expressed confidence that all the agreements reached will be implemented. Can these events again violate the agreements and relations reached between Azerbaijan and Iran?

Answer: I think that there will be no fundamental changes in relations between the two countries, regardless of who comes to power in Iran. So far, it is clear that in any case, the trends of centralization of power in Iran will intensify. This is important for the preservation of the country's governance system in the current socio-political conditions. In general, after these elections, a tightening of both Iran's domestic and foreign policies is not excluded. Naturally, the effect will be across the entire spectrum. Including in relation to Azerbaijan.

Question: What changes or innovations can happen after that in Iran or in Iran's relations with other countries?

Answer: As mentioned above, the struggle for power in Iran will have an impact on the internal socio-political situation in the country. There will be a tightening of the political line to prevent possible negative consequences.  The regime will take tough and decisive measures to protect itself. It can also have both desirable and directly opposite consequences. This can be equally attributed to both domestic and foreign policy. In general, we can say that the theocratic regime in Iran is entering the next stage of testing. The outcome of the regime's exit from this stage depends not only on the behavior of the Iranian authorities. This will depend on Tehran's relations with its neighbors, as well as on the course of the ongoing geopolitical struggle for the Middle East.


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