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Rescuers find ‘no signs’ Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi survived helicopter crash – POLITICO

Over recent years, Raisi’s loyalty to the regime and its brutal methods fired speculation about his potential to replace Khamenei as supreme leader — which would give him the last word on all big political decisions — although that elevation seemed less likely of late thanks to criticism over his competence as president.

His death will heighten the belief among many Iranians and Iran-watchers that Khamenei’s own son, Mojtaba, will move to be frontrunner in the race to succeed his father.       

“Raisi represents a younger version of Iran’s revolutionary elite — much less competent, but much more zealous,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at Washington’s Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has called for tighter sanctions on Tehran. “These are the kind of people that Khamenei wants at the helm — Raisi’s death narrows down the selection process for his successor, and Khamenei’s own son is one potential candidate.”

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was also on board and is presumed dead. | Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Before the death was confirmed, Khamenei had called for prayers for the missing president and pledged the crash would not throw the nation into chaos. “The people of Iran should not worry: There will be no disruption in the work of the country,” he said.  

Having helped oversee his country’s increasingly belligerent standoff with Israel and the West, and facing growing social discontent and economic malaise at home, Raisi “had plenty of enemies,” said Taleblu. 

Iran’s foreign policy has dragged it into more direct confrontations with the West, with its leaders repeatedly threatening all-out war against Israel since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza and providing weaponry and political support to Russia. Last month, Iran launched a wave of drones against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in what it said was revenge for a strike on its consulate in Syria that killed two top Revolutionary Guards commanders.

Meanwhile, Iran’s partners in Yemen, the Islamist Houthis, have for months been harassing international shipping, firing missiles and drones at cargo vessels and tankers in what they claim is an effort to force Israel to back down. Tehran’s long-standing proxy, Hezbollah, has also been using its strongholds in Southern Lebanon to fire rockets into Israel.

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