Iranian officials confirmed early on Monday that President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian were found dead at the site of a helicopter crash following an hours-long search near the Iran-Azerbaijan border. Raisi, 63, known to his critics as “the Butcher of Tehran,” leaves behind a significant power vacuum in Iran as the country wages multiple proxy conflicts across the Middle East.

As Valuetainment previously reported, the helicopter carrying President Raisi, Foreign Minister Abdollahian, and several other government officials suffered what was initially described as a “hard landing” in Iran’s mountainous northeastern region while returning from neighboring Azerbaijan. Iran has offered no official explanation for the crash, but early reports indicate that the helicopter was brought down by severe fog rather than sabotage. However, former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is already alleging that the United States is complicit in the crash for its embargo on the sale of aircraft parts to Iran, which forced the country to rely on older, second-hand equipment.

Rescuers were unable to locate the downed aircraft for several hours, and hopes that the president would be recovered alive were quickly dashed once the crash site was discovered. “President Raisi’s helicopter was completely burned in the crash,” an anonymous official told Reuters at the time. “Unfortunately, all passengers are feared dead.”

Following news of President Raisi’s death, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held an emergency meeting to declare a five-day mourning period, during which he also appointed Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as acting president until a new election can be held within 50 days.

Iranian officials confirmed that President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash near the Iran-Azerbaijan border, leaving a major power vacuum in Iran.
(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

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Ebrahim Raisi, a devoted Islamic clerical scholar, political hardliner, and longtime protégé of the ayatollah, rose to power as the head of the Iranian judiciary. In 1988, Raisi oversaw the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners on the orders of previous Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, earning himself an American sanction.

Allegations have persisted for years that Raisi, who lost a presidential bid in 2017, was only able to win in 2021 because Khamenei rigged the election in his favor—claims backed up by record low voter turnout and the last-minute disqualification of Raisi’s leading competitors.

Under his leadership, Iran invested heavily in its uranium enrichment program, strengthened its ties with Russia, and began arming militant groups throughout the Middle East. These groups include Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, among others. Raisi and Khamenei also jointly ordered an unprecedented drone and missile strike on Israel last month.

While Raisi was once considered a likely successor to the 82-year-old Ayatollah, his death likely means that the Supreme Leader’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei is now the leading contender for the position. Experts have long raised concerns about the possibility of this succession given the Iranian Revolution’s violent overthrow of Iran’s hereditary monarch under the last Shah.

As the Iranian government mourns President Raisi’s death, condolences are flooding in from neighboring countries, as well as from many of the designated terrorist groups that receive backing from the Islamic Republic.

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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