Iran’s Presidential reins pass to Mohammad Mokhber

Iran’s Presidential reins pass to Mohammad Mokhber

A wave of shock swept through Iran on May 19, 2024, as the nation lost its prime minister, Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian in a helicopter crash. According to Article 131 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution, if the president dies in office, the vice president takes over the responsibilities of the Nation. Now as President Ebrahim Raisi has passed away, the first Vice President Mohammad Mokhber will serve as the Interim President of Iran with the confirmation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who wields the ultimate authority.

The rise of Mohammad Mokhber, Who is he?

Mohammad Mokhber, a low profile figure thrust into the public eye under controversial circumstances, he is a hardline conservative who has been a trusted confidant of the Supreme Leader for over three decades, which makes him a staunch supporter of Khamenei’s authoritarian system of governance.

During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Mokhber served in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), an ideological military force formed to defend the Islamic Republic. His participation aligned him closely with Ali Khamenei.

After the war, Khamenei appointed Mokhber in 1989 to head the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO/Setad) – a massive economic conglomerate controlled by the Supreme Leader’s office. Under Mokhber’s management, EIKO has accumulated vast business holdings across sectors like energy, finance, construction and more. This has provided Khamenei an immense funding stream independent of state finances. This position also placed him in the inner circle of Iran’s power elite.

He was part of a team of Iranian officials who visited Moscow in October and agreed to supply surface-to-surface missiles and drones to Russia’s military. The team also included two senior officials from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and an official from the Supreme National Security Council.

In 2021, Mokhber was appointed as First Vice President of Iran when Ebrahim Raisi became the President- a clear sign of Khamenei’s immense trust in him. This gave Mokhber direct executive authority over government affairs and policies.

Mohammad Mokhber and his close relations with the Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei can be observed as Mokhber previously has been the head of SETAD, an investment fund linked to Khamenei. Mokhber is seen as fiercely loyal to Khamenei and the principle of velayat-e faqih (absolute ruling authority of the Supreme Leader). Their relationship is built on ideological affinity and allegiance to Iran’s theocratic system of governance.

Uncertainty and Market Instability

Analysts closely monitor market uncertainty in the Middle East following Raisi’s death. As a major oil producer, any conflict involving Iran could further threaten and destabilize the wider region. Iran’s alleged support for the Houthis in Yemen, who have been blocking international trade through attacks on Red Sea shipping vessels, adds to the geopolitical tensions.

The late president’s death is concerning financial markets, particularly commodities. Oil prices rose in early Asian trading on Monday, and the political turmoil in Iran impacted stock markets and gold prices. Geopolitical uncertainty can increase demand for safe-haven assets like gold, pushing prices higher.

The leadership transition process will be closely watched, as it will influence Iran’s domestic policies and approach to international diplomacy. The new leadership’s stance on key issues such as the nuclear program, relations with Israel, and interactions with the U.S. will be critical in shaping the future geopolitical landscape.

Moreover, the incident may prompt increased scrutiny and speculation about Iran’s internal security and political dynamics. Any perceived weakness or instability could embolden adversaries and complicate Iran’s efforts to navigate the complex web of regional and international relations.

Global Reactions on the Death Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences over Ebrahim sudden death. He posted on X and wrote “Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow.”

Afghanistan’s acting Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund said, “We share in the grief of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its people and extend our condolences to all the families of the victims, the nation, and the government of Iran.

“In these difficult times, we stand alongside the people of Iran and pray for forgiveness for all the victims of this incident and for patience for their families.”

President Mahmoud Abbas made a statement, “We extend our sincere condolences and sympathy to the brotherly Iranian people for the passing of the late President Ibrahim Raisi and the Foreign Minister, praying to Almighty God to bestow His vast mercy upon the deceased Iranian President and the others, and to grant patience and solace to their families, affirming the solidarity of the State of Palestine and its people with the Iranian leadership and people in this great affliction.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on X extended his condolence and wrote, “The great Iranian nation will overcome this tragedy with customary courage.

“Pakistan will observe a day of mourning and the flag will fly at half mast as a mark of respect for President Raisi and his companions and in solidarity with brotherly Iran.”

India’s Ties with Iran and the Strategic Chabahar Port Project

India and Iran have long enjoyed cordial relations based on historical ties and cultural linkages that date back several centuries. However, in recent decades, their partnership has been significantly influenced by geopolitics and Iran’s strained relationship with the West over its nuclear program.

One key area where India and Iran have forged closer cooperation is in developing the Chabahar port in southeastern Iran. For India, access to Chabahar fits its strategic interests in multiple ways.

However, the future trajectory of the Chabahar project remains uncertain due to renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018. Indian firms have faced difficulties securing supplies and payments due to restrictions on financial transactions with Iran. Geopolitical tensions make further progress at Chabahar complicated.

Yet, India sees strategic merit in maintaining ties with Iran and continuing involvement at Chabahar despite the obstacles. The port has emerged as a vital part of India’s outreach to Afghanistan and Central Asia under its ambitious connectivity initiatives westward. How New Delhi navigates the Iran sanctions minefield will have a major bearing on this key strategic project.

With an Interim leader in place, What is the timeframe for Iran’s next Presidential vote?

Following the announcement of Ebrahim Raisi’s death on 20 May, authorities have announced that the voting would be held on 28 June, with registration of candidates running from 30 May to 3 June and campaigning lasting from 12 June until 27 June.

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