HomePoliticsBriefingThe Iranian President is dead

The Iranian President is dead

A woman reads a newspaper with a front-page report on the crash of the Iranian president's helicopter outside a kiosk in Tehran on May 20, 2024. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was declared dead on May 20 after rescue teams found his crashed helicopter in a fog-shrouded western mountain region, sparking mourning in the Islamic republic. (Photo by Atta KENARE / AFP)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, along with the country’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several others, was found dead at the site of a helicopter crash on Monday, May 20, following an extensive search through a foggy, mountainous region in the northwest of the country, according to the Iranian Republic’s state media reports. 

The tragic incident occurred amid ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, particularly with the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. Last month, under the directive of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi launched an unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel. During its tenure, Iran has enriched uranium to near weapons-grade levels, escalating tensions with Western nations. 

The announcement followed a report released on Sunday by the Iranian state media according to which a helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi had experienced a “hard landing.” Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi confirmed on state TV that one of the helicopters in the Presidential convoy had a rough landing, furtherly noting that rescue efforts were being hindered by challenging weather conditions.

Expressing his condolences, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed posted on X: “I extend my deepest condolences to the Iranian government and people over the passing of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and their companions in this tragic accident. We pray for their eternal peace and offer our heartfelt sympathies to their families. The UAE stands in solidarity with Iran during this difficult time.”

Similarly, UAE Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid shared on X: “Our condolences and deepest sympathies to the brotherly Iranian people and their leadership on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in this painful accident. Our hearts are with you in this tough time. We pray that God grants them mercy and places them in His spacious Paradise.”

Russia’s embassy in Tehran also extended its condolences over Raisi’s death, as reported by the state news agency TASS. Likewise, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan offered his sympathies to the Iranian people over the losses.

May 19, 2024: President Ebrahim Raisi was in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province when the helicopter accident occurred. State TV reported that the crash took place near Jolfa, a city bordering Azerbaijan, around 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of Tehran. The state-run IRNA news agency mentioned that Raisi was traveling with Foreign Minister and Governor of East Azerbaijan province, Amir-Abdollahian, and other officials.

East Azerbaijan Province, situated in the northwest of the Iranian plateau, is one of Iran’s thirty-one provinces. Tabriz serves as its capital, while Urmia is its central city. The province is bordered to the north by the Aras River, which forms a 235-kilometer boundary separating Iran from Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Raisi, aged 63, was known as a hard-liner and formerly headed Iran’s judiciary. Seen as a protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, some analysts suggest that he might have succeeded the 85-year-old leader in the future. Raisi won the 2021 Presidential election in Iran, which recorded the lowest voter turnout in the history of the Islamic Republic. Furthermore, the United States has sanctioned him, mainly due to his role in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 following the Iran-Iraq war.


In Lebanon

Mourning period: Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati has declared three days of official mourning in response to the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and their accompanying delegation.

Hezbollah also expressed its grief on Monday over the tragic helicopter crash that claimed the lives of the Iranian President and other officials – lauding Raisi as a “protector” of anti-Israel factions in the region. In its statement, Hezbollah conveyed the deepest condolences, highlighting its long-standing acquaintance with Raisi and the Islamic Republic. The party described him as a “strong supporter and a staunch defender of our causes,” as well as a “protector of the resistance movements.”

Killing a Hamas commander: Israel targeted a Hamas commander in an airstrike in southeastern Lebanon on May 18, near the Syrian border. CCTV footage of the incident revealed that the occupation forces fired four missiles at a moving truck surrounded by traffic, with one missile narrowly missing a civilian vehicle to the left of the intended target.

Dahye shooting: On Saturday, the southern suburbs of Beirut experienced escalating tensions and clashes between protesters and security forces. Motorcycle rallies were held to protest the security plan being implemented by the authorities throughout Lebanon.

The demonstrations included motorcyclists in Dahye and the southern suburbs expressing their discontent with the nationwide security measures. Tensions rose further when security forces fired shots following a conflict between protesters, angered by the confiscation of their motorcycles, and officers at the Mreijeh police station.

New BDL governor: On Sunday, Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rai hosted Wassim Mansouri, the acting governor of Banque du Liban (BDL), in Bkirki, as reported by the state-run National News Agency (NNA). The specifics of their conversation were not provided. The meeting comes as Lebanon grapples with a prolonged financial crisis now in its fifth year, marked by arbitrary banking restrictions on depositors and the collapse of the national currency.

Various local media outlets relayed that Patriarch Rai highlighted the critical need for Lebanon to elect a President. He stressed the importance of having a leader capable of negotiating with Israel on vital issues, such as the border dispute and the implementation of UN Resolution 1701. Aimed at resolving the 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict, the resolution calls for a complete cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah.

New sign language development: Amidst Lebanon’s ongoing financial crisis and the alarming devaluation of the national currency, Tele Liban, the country’s public television channel, has faced significant challenges. However, on Friday evening, a beacon of innovation emerged as Tele Liban launched its inaugural news bulletin in sign language, seamlessly integrated into the 7:30 p.m. news broadcast.

Crafted by caretaker Information Minister Ziad Makari, this pioneering initiative received financial backing from the Makassed Islamic Charity Association, led by Fayçal Sinno. The aim, according to reports from the NNA, is to bolster both public television and accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community.


In The Region 

ICC arrest warrants: ICC prosecutor Karim Khan announced on Monday that the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants for both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity related to the October 7 attacks on Israel and the subsequent onslaught on Gaza.

Khan revealed that the ICC prosecution team is also targeting Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with two senior Hamas figures: Mohammed Deif, the leader of the Al Qassem Brigades, and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader. The warrants represent a significant moment for the ICC as they mark the first time the court has pursued the top leader of a close US ally, placing Netanyahu in a similar position to Russian President Vladimir Putin – who is facing an ICC arrest warrant for the war in Ukraine -, and the late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi – who had an ICC warrant for alleged crimes against humanity at the time of his death, in October 2011.

Israel’s new checkpoints: According to a senior Western official familiar with military plans, Israel is allegedly establishing a sophisticated network of checkpoints in Rafah, aimed at preventing Palestinian men of ‘military age’ from escaping ahead of an anticipated Israeli offensive on the southern Gaza’s border city. The source, speaking anonymously to Middle East Eye, revealed that while the checkpoints may allow some women and children to leave Rafah, unarmed civilian Palestinian men are likely to be detained, separated from their families and effectively trapped in the city during the impending assault.

This previously undisclosed information sheds light on the Israeli strategy to encircle Rafah with checkpoints, indicating their determination to proceed with an attack on the city, where over one million displaced Palestinians have sought refuge in tents and makeshift camps.

Peace summit?: In the capital of Bahrain, Manama, the Arab League summit convened with a significant agenda. The leaders representing the 22-member group voiced a unified call for an international conference aimed at achieving peace in the Middle East and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

King Abdullah II of Jordan highlighted the urgent need for action, expressing deep concern over the devastating impact of the current situation in Gaza. He emphasized the long-lasting repercussions of the destruction, stressing that the suffering witnessed by the people of Gaza, particularly the younger generations, will have profound consequences. King Abdullah II underscored the importance of bringing an end to the ongoing conflict, stating that continued violence and instability will only perpetuate further turmoil. He called upon the global community to fulfill its moral and humanitarian duty to resolve a conflict that has persisted for over seven decades.

No risks taken: Amidst South Korean builders’ aspirations to tap into the construction boom in the Middle East, concerns loom large over escalating geopolitical risks in the region. Local construction firms are wary of potential setbacks in infrastructure projects due to instability in key markets like the Middle East.

Geopolitical tensions involving Israel, Palestine, and Iran are cited as major factors impacting oil prices and consequently affecting the economies of oil-exporting nations in the Middle East. This sensitivity to geopolitical issues raises concerns among Korean construction companies about the feasibility and profitability of their projects in the region.

Additionally, uncertainties surrounding procurement and labor costs further compound worries for Korean construction firms. The volatile geopolitical landscape prompts these companies to closely monitor unfolding events and assess their potential impact on future construction projects.

Despite efforts to capitalize on the Middle East’s construction boom, Korean builders remain cautious, recognizing the need to navigate through geopolitical uncertainties that could dampen their expectations for growth in the region.


What We’re Reading

Overlapping political and banking interests: NOW’s Maan Barazy wrote about the intricate political maneuvering within Lebanon’s banking system and the ongoing crisis facing depositors. He revealed that the political junta is advocating for French mediation to address the default on Eurobonds and potential merger and acquisition deals involving French banks. Barazy highlighted the complex connections between banking institutions, political figures, and decision-makers in Lebanon, emphasizing the significant overlap between the country’s political class and those with financial interests in the banking sector – shedding light on the prevalence of politically exposed persons (PEPs) within the country’s largest banks, individuals entrusted with prominent functions who may have the capacity to abuse their positions for illicit activities, such as money laundering or corruption.


Lebanon’s silent killer: Journalist Rodayna Raydan highlighted for NOW a forthcoming study by AUB scientists revealing a 50 percent increase in cancer likelihood in Beirut due to heavy diesel generator usage. She stressed the urgent need for addressing air quality issues through stricter regulations and public awareness campaigns. Despite infrastructure investments, Lebanon still faces pollution challenges, according to environmental activist Najat Saliba. The recession-hit electricity sector has led to increased reliance on costly and polluting diesel generators, exacerbating health risks for Lebanese consumers.

The strategic depth of Nasrallah’s speech: Political psychologist Ramzi Abu Ismail delved into the recent speech by Hassan Nasrallah, delivered on May 13 to commemorate the martyrdom of Mustafa Badreddine. As the region grapples with ongoing conflict and elusive resolutions, Nasrallah’s speeches offer a window into Hezbollah’s political messaging, strategic maneuvers, and rhetorical tactics. Nasrallah, a prominent figure in the region and a key ally of Iran, is closely scrutinized for insights into Hezbollah’s internal dynamics, regional aspirations, and global positioning. Abu Ismail provided an analytical breakdown of Nasrallah’s speech, shedding light on its key themes and implications within the complex geopolitical landscape of the Middle East.


Lebanon +

In the last episode of Sarde after dinner, various aspects of mental health have been explored, including stress and its effects on the brain, managing burnouts, the impact of social media on brain activity, the psychological toll of war and genocide, and debunking myths surrounding detoxes and supplements. Through insightful discussions, listeners gain valuable insights into maintaining mental well-being in today’s world.