Iran’s Succession After Ebrahim Raisi

When the supreme leader dies, instability is likely. The U.S. should prepare to take advantage of it.

The sudden death of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi will have little immediate effect on the regime. A former president once described his job as “the system’s logistics officer.” The next president, like previous ones, will enforce the policies dictated by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But Mr. Raisi’s death at 63 isn’t trivial. He was one of the two candidates often cited to succeed Mr. Khamenei and his absence will affect the succession when the supreme leader, who is 85, dies.

The Islamic Republic’s founder and first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, thought he had arranged for a smooth succession. Hossein-Ali Montazeri was Khomeini’s loyal student in the Qom seminary and had played a major role in elevating his teacher to become the head of the school. When Khomeini was sent to exile, Montazeri became his “plenipotentiary representative” in Iran. After the revolution, Khomeini announced Montazeri as his deputy and successor.

In the late 1980s, however, Montazeri became disillusioned with the regime’s tyranny. Eventually, he fell out of favor for dissent, and Khomeini stripped him of his positions and put him under house arrest. A year later, in 1989, Khomeini died without an heir apparent.

Read the rest at the Wall Street Journal.

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