Three years ago, Ebrahim Raisi ascended to the presidency of Iran under a cloud of controversy. The election that brought him to power was widely regarded as rigged, suggesting a premeditated move by Iran’s power brokers towards a more distinguished position. This assumption seemed plausible as the aging and ailing Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, was well beyond the life expectancy of Iranians, and many believed Raisi was being groomed to succeed him. However, history has a way of twisting even the most well-laid plans. Instead of elevating him to the supreme office, Raisi’s presidency ended in tragedy and controversy, reshaping the political landscape of Iran.

The Tragic End of a Presidency

On May 19th, while returning from a visit to neighboring Azerbaijan where he had inaugurated a dam, authorities lost contact with Raisi’s helicopter in a mountainous region about 86 kilometers northeast of Tabriz. The next day, state media confirmed Raisi’s death, along with that of the foreign minister who was traveling with him. The official explanation was bad weather, but in Iranian politics, nothing is ever as it seems. Speculation about more nefarious explanations has been rampant, considering Raisi’s long list of enemies both within and outside Iran.

The Complex Iranian Political System

Understanding the implications of Raisi’s death requires an understanding of Iran’s unique political system. Iran is a theocratic democracy, a system that combines elements of both democracy and authoritarianism. At the top is the unelected Supreme Leader, who has the final say on all matters of state, including foreign policy, military strategy, and the economy. Below him is a democratically elected president, who wields significant but ultimately limited power.

After the 1979 revolution, Iran’s leadership created a system that fused Islamic theocracy with republican elements. The result was a government where elected bodies like the presidency and Parliament coexist with unelected entities such as the military, the Judiciary, and advisory bodies like the Expediency Council and the Guardian Council. This intertwining of democratic and theocratic elements creates inherent tensions, particularly evident in times of political crisis.

The Succession Struggle

The death of a president like Raisi in such tumultuous circumstances adds a new layer of complexity to the already intricate succession process of the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader is officially selected by the Assembly of Experts, a body of senior clerics and lawyers elected by the public. Raisi was one of the two leading candidates expected to replace Khamenei, the other being Mojtaba.

With Raisi gone, Mojtaba, Khamenei’s second son, emerges as the leading candidate. However, his ascension would make the theocratic process appear more like a hereditary transfer of power, potentially undermining the legitimacy of the entire system. While Raisi’s hardline credentials and experience made him a consensus candidate, Mojtaba’s rise could face significant resistance.

The Role of the Military

A crucial factor in Mojtaba’s potential rise to power is the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Aligning with the IRGC could help Mojtaba secure his position but would also further entrench the military’s influence over Iran’s politics and economy. This shift could lead to a more militaristic and less theocratic governance model, with significant implications for both domestic and foreign policy.

Historical Context and Future Implications

Ali Khamenei, despite being an ultra-conservative, has occasionally supported moderate lawmakers and initiatives, such as backing President Hassan Rouhani and negotiating the nuclear deal with the West. A Supreme Leader without Khamenei’s pragmatic approach could steer Iran towards a more aggressive foreign policy, driven by military interests rather than diplomatic considerations.

The death of Ebrahim Raisi, therefore, not only disrupts the immediate political order but also clouds the future of Iran’s leadership and policy direction. In the short term, the vice president, Muhammad Mokhber, will assume the presidency until a new election is held within 50 days. However, the next presidential election will be crucial in determining the trajectory of Iran’s political landscape.


  1. What happened to Ebrahim Raisi? Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash on May 19th, while returning from a visit to neighboring Azerbaijan. The official cause of the crash was reported as bad weather, but speculation about foul play persists.
  2. Who is expected to succeed Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader? Mojtaba, Khamenei’s second son, is currently the leading candidate. However, his ascension could face resistance due to the perception of a hereditary transfer of power.
  3. How does Iran’s political system work? Iran has a unique system combining theocratic and democratic elements. The Supreme Leader holds ultimate authority, while the president and Parliament are elected by the public. Various unelected bodies, such as the military and the Judiciary, also wield significant power.
  4. What impact will Raisi’s death have on Iran’s future? Raisi’s death deepens the political infighting within Iran and complicates the succession process of the Supreme Leader. It may lead to a more militaristic governance model and affect Iran’s domestic and foreign policies.
  5. How is the Supreme Leader chosen? The Supreme Leader is chosen by the Assembly of Experts, a body of senior clerics and lawyers elected by the public.
  6. What role does the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps play in Iran? The IRGC has significant influence over Iran’s politics and economy. Aligning with the IRGC can help secure political power but also entrenches military influence.


Ebrahim Raisi’s death has triggered a seismic shift in Iranian politics, deepening the infighting within the theocratic elite and complicating the succession process of the Supreme Leader. As Iran navigates this period of uncertainty, the decisions made by its political and military leaders will shape the country’s future for decades to come. The balance between theocratic and democratic elements, the role of the military, and the influence of external adversaries are all factors that will play a critical role in determining Iran’s path forward.

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By Ryan Hite

Ryan Hite is an American author, content creator, podcaster, and media personality. He was born on February 3, 1993, in Colorado and spent his childhood in Conifer, Colorado. He moved to Littleton in 2000 and spent the remainder of his schooling years in the city. Upon graduation from Chatfield Senior High School in 2011, he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated from the university in 2015 after studying Urban Planning, Business Administration, and Religious Studies. He spent more time in Colorado in the insurance, real estate, and healthcare industries. In 2019, he moved to Las Vegas, NV, where he continued to work in healthcare, insurance, and took his foray into media full time in 2021. His first exposure to the media industry came as a result of the experiences he had in his mid to late teens and early twenties. In 2013, he was compelled to collect a set of stories from his personal experiences and various other writings that he has had. His first book, a 365,000-word epic, Through Minds Eyes, was published in collaboration with Balboa Press. That initial book launched a media explosion. He learned all that he could about creating websites, marketing his published works, and would even contemplate the publication of other works as well. This book also inspired him to create his philosophy, his life work, that still influences the values that he holds in his life. Upon graduating college, he had many books published, blogs and other informative websites uploaded, and would embark on his continued exploration of the world of marketing, sales, and becoming an influencer. Of course, that did not come without challenges that would come his way. His trial-and-error approach of marketing himself and making himself known guided him through his years as a real estate agent, an insurance agent, and would eventually create a marketing plan from scratch with a healthcare startup. The pandemic did not initially create too many challenges to the status quo. Working from home did not affect the quality of his life. However, a series of circumstances such as continued website problems, social media shutdowns, and unemployment, caused him to pause everything between late 2020 and mid-2021. It was another period of loss of momentum and purpose for his life as he tried to navigate the world, as many people may have felt at that time. He attempted to find purpose in insurance again, resulting in failure. There was one thing that sparked his curiosity and would propel him to rediscover the thing that was gone from his life for so long. In 2021, he started his journey by taking on a full-time job in the digital media industry, an industry that he is still a part of today. It was at this point that he would also shut down the rest of the media that he had going at the time. In 2023, he announced that he would be embarking on what has become known as PROJECT30. This initiative will result in the reformation of websites, the reinvigoration of social media accounts, the creation of a Youtube channel and associated podcast, the creation of music, and the continued rediscovery of his creative potential. Unlike past projects, the purpose of this would not expound on the musings of a philosophy, the dissemination of useless news and articles, or the numerous attempts to be someone that he was not. This project is going to be about his authentic self. There are many ways to follow him as he embarks on this journey. Most of all, he wants everyone to be entertained, informed, and, in some ways, maybe a little inspired about the flourishing of the creativity that lies within the mind and soul of Ryan.

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