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TematicheMedio Oriente e Nord AfricaPresident Raisi accident: impressions from the Iranian press and...

President Raisi accident: impressions from the Iranian press and an overview

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The President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi is dead, together with Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian following an accident in an East Azerbaijan province. The Iranian press tributes the event to a dense fog, that has brought the helicopter to land “hardly”. The other two helicopters of the convoy got to their destination safely. The President was returning from the inauguration of the Khudafarin and Giz Galasi hydroelectric complexes, on the Araz River. Yesterday also marked the beginning of the operations of the Adhband bridge, important for the North-South corridor and strategic for Iran. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev co-chaired the inauguration. Revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei said the nation’s government would not be disrupted.

Relations with Azerbaijan and the infrastructures between the two countries, linked to the North-South corridor, are of primary importance to Teheran

The Islamic Republic had spent much time trying to find a peaceful solution between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Satisfaction in this regard was also expressed by the Azerbaijani side in a communiqué issued by President Aliyev himself a few hours before the accident, and reported by the Persian press. An Iran oxygenated by trade and exchange opportunities offered by the BRICS and by allowing Russia to connect to the Persian Gulf mitigates the effects of the failure of the JCPOA and needs stable relations with a secure Armenia and with an Azerbaijan involved in three hostile issues to Tehran:

1) Baku’s excellent relations with Israel;

2) Its partial fusion with Turkish interests (according to the motto “Two countries, one nation”);

3) The conflict with Armenia.

These factors undermine the possibility of stabilizing and governing a North-South trade corridor that could reinvigorate Russian interest in Iran, which would offer Moscow direct trade access to the Indian Ocean where it also seeks to structure energy and infrastructure connections with India. On January 25, 2022, the foundations of a new bridge over the Astarachay River on the border between the two countries were laid. The foundations of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) are based on an intergovernmental agreement signed by Russia, Iran and India on 12 September 2000 and ratified by 13 countries, including Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Russia and Turkey. The purpose of the creation of the corridor is to reduce the delivery time of goods from India to Russia, as well as (in a more optimistic perspective) to Northern and Western Europe. The delivery time on the current route is over six weeks, and the INSTC aims to reduce it to 3 weeks.

Azerbaijani irredentism within Iran threatens East-West connections

Last year, tensions between Tehran and Baku escalated after an attack on the Azerbaijani embassy in Tehran led to its closure. An Iranian investigation had led to the identification of “personal and family problems” as the motivation for the attack. In mid-March, Abbas Mousavi, Iran’s ambassador to Azerbaijan, noted that after attempts by both sides to “clear up misconceptions,” his sides agreed on the need to open a new chapter in their relations.

Difficulties in the governance of the Islamic Republic could arise due to the death of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian

This is due to two factors:

1) Iran is coming out of a period of strong internal instability, also characterized by the strong protests that began with the death of Mahsa Amini. Moreover, the question of the succession to Raisi (which according to Iranian law should be determined within 50 days) should be held in an extremely hot period, with Israel (according to today’s news) threatening entry into Lebanon. The institutional figures called upon to manage the country in the absence of the President, and especially the Speaker of Parliament and former mayor of Tehran Ghalibaf, should not stand between the Cabinet and the Supreme Leader in the continuity of government. However, the Supreme Leader suffers from uncertain health and is of advanced age;

2) Should the problem of the succession of the Supreme Leader also arise, the country could enter a crisis that could lead the Revolutionary Guards to claim for themselves direct government roles, as they essentially did during the command of General Suleimani, bypassing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in relations with Iraq and Syria.

Francesco Petrucciano

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