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Mehr News Agency

The deaths of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian have plunged the Islamic Republic into uncertainty.

The helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has plunged Iran into a state of profound anxiety. Ebrahim Raisi’s death has the potential to significantly alter regional security dynamics and international relations. The consequences of such a high-profile loss are far-reaching, deeply affecting Iran’s domestic stability, geopolitical maneuvering, and the overall balance of power in the Middle East and beyond, particularly in a politically charged environment.

Iran’s political landscape is traditionally complex, characterized by intricate interconnections between religious, political, and military entities. The death of President Raisi, a prominent figure closely associated with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, disrupts the delicate balance of power. Raisi was widely considered a potential successor to Khamenei, and his death may open the path for Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba Khamenei, to rise to power. However, this possibility has sparked concern and opposition within Iran’s clerical establishment. The swift nomination of Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as Raisi’s successor indicates a desire for continuity, despite escalating internal power struggles.

Iran’s internal stability is further strained by persistent economic difficulties and public unrest. Inflation has remained high in recent years, with the International Monetary Fund estimating it at 37.5% in April. Multiple waves of protests, often triggered by economic hardships, have erupted in recent years, such as those in 2019 over rising fuel prices. The loss of key leadership figures could either unify the country around a common purpose or exacerbate existing divisions. The Iranian government’s prudent response to this volatile situation is crucial for maintaining short-term stability.

Raisi’s death also casts uncertainty on the future of Iran-Pakistan relations. Economically, the Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline, a major project addressing Pakistan’s energy needs, symbolizes the desired economic interdependence. Raisi played a critical role in advancing these relationships despite international sanctions. The new leadership’s stance on this project remains to be seen. Geopolitically, Iran’s approach to Afghanistan, often at odds with Pakistan’s goals, might shift, impacting collaboration or tensions depending on the new regime’s interests. The Iran-Saudi Arabia rivalry, which significantly influences Pakistan-Iran ties, was pragmatically managed by Raisi. The new leadership’s policy could either ease or exacerbate tensions, affecting Pakistan’s diplomatic balance.

Security issues, including terrorism and border management, remain critical. Raisi’s government made progress in addressing these challenges. His death, however, might impede ongoing cooperation efforts, leading to increased border tensions. The policies of the incoming Iranian president will shape Pakistan’s strategic alignment with Iran. Maintaining strong bilateral ties requires continuous dialogue and respect for shared interests.

Raisi’s death occurs at a particularly delicate time, given the region’s heightened tensions. Iran’s involvement with Hamas and Hezbollah in the ongoing war in Gaza complicates regional relations. Raisi’s departure may embolden Israel and its allies to adopt a more aggressive stance towards Iran, potentially escalating the conflict.

Despite the Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, bilateral relations may take a new direction following Raisi’s death. Saudi Arabia, cautiously engaged in discussions with Iran, might reassess its position in light of the leadership transition. The potential instability in Iran could prompt Saudi Arabia to prioritize security and military readiness over diplomatic engagement.

Israel’s main concerns regarding Iran have always been its nuclear program and support for extremist organizations. Raisi’s death could pave the way for more moderate leadership open to dialogue or result in a harsher stance if military or radical factions gain power. Israel, which has been conducting covert operations and cyberattacks against Iran, might see this as an opportunity to intensify its efforts, potentially leading to direct confrontation.

Meanwhile, the United States faces a challenging diplomatic landscape. The leadership transition could significantly impact the Biden administration’s efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal. Raisi’s death may open the door for new negotiations or result in a more conservative government less inclined to compromise. The United States must carefully balance its commitments to both Iran and Israel’s security while avoiding regional conflict.

India’s pragmatic engagement with Iran, particularly through the Chabahar Port project, could be jeopardized. The port is crucial for India’s economic links to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan. However, the volatility in Iran might delay such projects, forcing India to reassess its investments and strategic commitments.

Russia and China, both with significant ties to Iran, will closely monitor the situation. Russia’s partnership with Iran in the Syrian conflict and its opposition to Western Middle Eastern policies might lead Moscow to play a more significant role in stabilizing Iran. China, a major economic partner through initiatives like the Belt and Road and the 25-year China-Iran Agreement encompassing economic, military, and security cooperation, has a vested interest in Iran’s stability. Both countries are likely to increase their support for Iran to counterbalance US influence.

The deaths of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian have plunged the Islamic Republic into uncertainty. The implications for regional security and Iran’s relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and other nations are profound. As Iran navigates this political uncertainty, the potential for further instability and conflict looms large. The international community must remain vigilant and proactive in addressing emerging challenges, striving to prevent escalation and promote peace and security.

Waleed Sami is pursuing a Master's degree in Strategic Studies at the Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS), affiliated with the prestigious National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad. He holds a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from National Defence University Islamabad (NDU).