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How Iran’s Regime Entered Crisis Management Mode After Raisi Death

Four-minute read

The death of the Iranian regime’s president Ebrahim Raisi, along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several other high-ranking officials, is raising more questions than answers. Given the regime’s long history of secrecy, deception, and manipulation of public opinion, even if it were to release information and details about the incident, such disclosures cannot be trusted. What is certain, however, are the political and social ramifications of this significant development.

The Cause and Circumstances of Raisi’s Flight

On Sunday, May 19, a delegation of the regime’s highest-ranking officials traveled northwest of the country to inaugurate a dam and meet with a delegation from Azerbaijan. Amid unprecedented tensions with the West and efforts to destabilize numerous regional countries, Tehran was eager to showcase positive relations with its neighbors. Azerbaijan was a particularly important target due to the crisis following the shooting at its embassy in Tehran on January 27, 2023, and ongoing border clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. State media promptly published news and photos of the event.

However, Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian did not survive to celebrate Sunday’s diplomatic effort as another achievement. According to state media, the weather in the Varzeqan region, along the flight path of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian’s team, was extremely poor.

Reports indicate that three helicopters left the inauguration site, with two returning safely. Given that the primary helicopter was carrying the President and Foreign Minister, the safe return of the two accompanying helicopters without the primary one cannot simply be dismissed as a security oversight. It must be concluded that, at the very least, Tehran was aware of the cause and the consequences of the failure of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian’s helicopter to return.

According to the state-run website “Asr-e Iran,” experts reported that the helicopter used by Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian was a Bell 412, built in the 1990s and originally belonging to an oil company. After an overhaul and the installation of special equipment such as night vision gadgets, it was added to the presidential fleet. Thus, the missing helicopter in the East Azerbaijan Province incident was nearly 40 years old.

Severe Military and Logistical Weaknesses

A regime that has long claimed to be the region’s leading power, exporting missiles and drones to other countries and making a spectacle of launching over 300 rockets and drones at Israel in one night, was forced on May 19 to demonstrate to the world that it could not ensure the safety of its highest executive officials, let alone even rescuing them. Simultaneously, Tehran mobilized more than half of the security and armed forces in East Azerbaijan Province, deployed hundreds of search teams, and avoided announcing the results of the searches, revealing its lack of organization and necessary equipment to locate its top officials, thus earning global disgrace.

The situation escalated to the point that even after countries like Turkey offered assistance in searching for the helicopter wreckage, the regime denied any foreign help through state media. Pirhossein Kolivand, head of the regime’s Red Crescent Society, called the role of foreign aid in locating Raisi’s helicopter a “rumor.”

Crisis Management Mode

As it has done in past crises, the clerical dictatorship entered “crisis management” mode on May 19 and 20, attempting to obscure the truth with contradictory information. For a regime that has bloodily suppressed dozens of nationwide and local uprisings since 2017, the simultaneous death of several senior officials and accomplices in crimes against humanity and global terrorism is a matter of “national security.”

To fully manage the psychological impact and prevent social shock, Tehran deliberately disseminated contradictory news about the missing group for over 12 hours. The regime intentionally promoted the “hard landing” theory regarding Raisi’s helicopter, while all local officials claimed ignorance. Gholamhossein Esmaili, head of Raisi’s office, claimed that contact had been made with the center by Mohammad-Ali Alehashem, the Friday prayer leader and Khamenei’s representative in Tabriz and that some other officials claimed they received life signals from the fallen helicopter.

Ali Khamenei, the regime’s Supreme Leader, who is known for not responding quickly, made a rare public appearance within less than 24 hours of the incident. Addressing handpicked members under the guise of families of the Revolutionary Guards, he assured the regime’s deeply concerned forces, stating that authorities must prevent unrest. Khamenei even used body language and tried to demonstrate determined gestures, while indicating he had little hope for the survival of the high-ranking delegation. Following the announcement of the deaths of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian, he swiftly appointed their successors and called for elections to be held within 50 days.

At the funeral ceremony for the deceased of the presidential helicopter crash, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said, “If this tragic incident had happened to any other nation, it would have cast a very dark shadow over their future. But thanks to the presence of Supreme Leader Khamenei and the calming message he conveyed to everyone, you will see that we in Iran will easily move past these issues.”

Social and Global Reactions

The news of Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter crash sparked widespread joy among millions of Iranians both inside and outside the country. Videos circulated on social media showing people distributing sweets and celebrating with fireworks, despite the life-threatening risks posed by a regime that kills football fans celebrating with live ammunition.

Ebrahim Raisi was known among Iranians as someone who signed the death sentences of thousands of dissidents throughout his bloody career. As a key figure in the “Death Commission” responsible for the 1988 massacre, his name was even mentioned in the Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini’s letter to the Death Commission.

Following the announcement of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian’s deaths, leaders of some countries shamelessly seized the opportunity to approach Khamenei by sending condolences, which sparked severe criticism from their citizens and political figures. The hashtag #NotInMyName, launched in reaction to European Council President Charles Michel’s condolences to Tehran, trended in many countries on X (formerly Twitter).

These reactions reflect 45 years of the West’s failed policy of appeasing the murderers of the Iranian people against four decades of the Iranian people’s struggle to overthrow the ruling regime. If one would doubt the course Khamenei might take following the deaths of Ebrahim Raisi and his Foreign Minister, Tehran’s crisis management actions serve as a wake-up call and provide enough political and social insights to draw conclusions about Iran’s future developments.