Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, hardline ally of Supreme Leader, killed in helicopter crash

Officials and state media reported that Ebrahim Raisi was killed when his helicopter crashed during bad weather near the Azerbaijani border in mountains.

After a night-long search in blizzards, the charred wreckage from the helicopter that crashed on Sunday with Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirbadollahian was discovered early on Monday morning.

The official IRNA reported that Supreme Leader Khamenei would be the interim president. He is the ultimate authority with final say in foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear program.

Khamenei issued a statement in which he said, “I announce a period of five days public mourning. I offer my condolences for the Iranian people.” Mokhber is considered to be close to Khamenei.


According to the constitution of the Islamic Republic, a new election for president must be held in 50 days.

The Guardian Council must vet any candidate first. This hardline watchdog has disqualified many prominent conservatives and moderates, meaning that the Iranian policy will not change.

Images from IRNA and Iranian state TV showed Red Crescent workers carrying an unidentified body on a stretcher. A senior Iranian official told Reuters earlier that all those on the helicopter had been killed.

IRNA reported that Ali Bagheri Kani, the deputy foreign minister, was named acting foreign Minister following Amirabdollahian’s death.

The crash occurs at a moment of increasing discontent in Iran due to a variety of social, political and economic problems. Iran’s clerical leaders are under international pressure due to the disputed nuclear program of Tehran and its growing military ties with Russia in the Ukraine war.


Middle East conflagrations have broken out since Iran’s Hamas ally attacked Israel on October 7, prompting Israel to attack Gaza.

Last month, a long-running “shadow war” between Iran & Israel was brought to light by tit-fortat drone & missile exchanges.

A Reuters report cited an Israeli official as saying that the Israeli government was not responsible for the crash. The official who asked to remain anonymous said, “It was not us.”

Images from the scene showed that the U.S. Bell 212 helicopter slammed against a mountain peak. However, there were no official words on the cause of this crash. Among the dead were also the governor of East Azerbaijan Province, and a senior Imam from Tabriz.

Iran has been unable to upgrade or obtain parts for its aircraft due to decades of sanctions. Russia offered to help Iran investigate the crash.

IRNA, the Iranian state news agency, reported that Raisi’s helicopter crashed in Varzeqan, north of Tabriz. He was returning from an official trip to Azerbaijan’s border in Iran’s northwest.

Raisi was elected as president in 2021. Since then, he has tightened morality laws and overseen the bloody crackdown of anti-government demonstrations. He also pushed for nuclear talks with major world powers.

The leaders of Saudi Arabia and Syria, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, as well as the leaders of Jordan, Iraq, Iraq, and Pakistan, sent messages of condolences to Iran.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, called Raisi a “true friend of Russia”. The Kremlin reported that he spoke to Mokhber on the phone, and both expressed “mutual intentions to further strengthen Russian/Iranian interactions”.

Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, said that he felt “deeply saddened and shocked”.

Western capitals reacted less, although the European Union (EU) and Japan expressed their condolences.

Hamas is a militant group supported by Iran that fights Israeli forces in Gaza. With Tehran’s help, the group issued a message expressing its sympathy for “this enormous loss” to the Iranian nation.

Hezbollah, a group in Lebanon backed by Iran and the Houthi rebels of Yemen have also released statements that praised Raisi’s death and expressed their sorrow.

In a press release, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (an exiled opposition movement) described his death as “a monumental and irreparable blow” for the Islamic Republic.


Rescue teams battled rain, blizzards, and a difficult terrain throughout the night in order to reach the wreckage early on Monday morning.

The national broadcaster had earlier halted all its regular programming in order to show Raisi’s prayers taking place across the country.

A video showed a team of rescuers, dressed in bright jackets with head torches and huddled together around a GPS unit, searching a mountainside at night on foot.

In Iran’s two-tiered political system, which is split between the clerical and government establishments, Khamenei (the supreme leader of Iran since 1989) has the power to make all major policy decisions.

After eight years of a pragmatic Hassan Rouhani as president and an agreement on nuclear weapons with Washington, Raisi won a carefully managed election in 2021. This brought all branches under the control hardliners.

Raisi may have suffered a setback due to the widespread protests against clerical authority following the death in morality police custody of Mahsa, a 22-year-old Kurdish girl, and his failure to revive Iran’s economic situation, which is hampered by Western sanctions.

Raisi was at the Azerbaijani frontier on Sunday for the joint Qiz-Qalasi Dam project. Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, who had earlier bid Raisi a “friendly goodbye”, offered to help in the rescue.