Escalating Middle East tension

The sudden death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash is expected to exacerbate the tensions in an already volatile region following the recent tit-for-tat exchange of drone and missile strikes with the long-time foe Israel. The Gaza conflict has caused significant tension in the Middle East. Especially hostility between Iran and Israel is at all time high. Raisi, a hardliner who became the President in 2021, was widely seen as a contender to succeed the country’s ailing supreme spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei but faced internal opposition.

Iranian law stipulates that if the President, who is number two in the hierarchy after the supreme leader, dies, power is transferred to the first Vice President and an election must be called within six months. Mohammad Mokhber, also a conservative politician who has been blamed in the past for Iran’s economic woes, has been chosen as the interim President till the elections are held. Even as Khamenei has tried to reassure the shocked Iranians that there would be no disruption to state affairs, the potential power struggle within Iran will be keenly watched by the rest of the world, including India. The internal power struggle in the coming days could impact everything, be it the war in the Middle East or the price of oil. Given Iran’s growing importance in the geopolitics of the Middle East, its unrealised economic potential and the growing fragility of Khamenei, who has ruled Iran since 1989, the international community would watch with keen interest the supreme leader’s next steps.