Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has died in a helicopter crash. Thomas Jäger, an expert in international politics, predicts a power struggle in the Tehran regime and explains why Moscow is now “closely monitoring” events in Iran.

FOCUS online: What does Raisi’s death mean for the Tehran regime? How hard was it hit?

Thomas Jäger: With Raisi, the Tehran regime has lost a crucial figure. Raisi was chosen to succeed Khamenei as Iran’s religious and political leader. He would have served one or two terms and then would have been officially installed as Khamenei’s successor. Previous presidents like Rouhani and Ahmadinejad were not even considered for this. This shows how important Raisi was for the Tehran regime.

Nevertheless, the deaths of Raisi and Foreign Minister Amirabdollahian do not immediately change the stability of the Tehran government. The vice president takes over and the government led by Khamenei continues as before. At least for the next 50 days. Then you have to choose.

At this point I definitely expect a power struggle. The different factions in the Tehran regime will now position themselves and argue about which candidates will be nominated. Khamenei will decide who is allowed to run in the end. From my point of view, it can be expected that the regime will remain stable for the time being.

Will something change in the fundamental orientation of the regime?

Jäger: The regime is in a very difficult phase – in several respects. Externally, the conflict with Israel, the shadow war, was intensified by the Revolutionary Guards. Internally, the regime was shaken by mass protests, although these were suppressed with rigorous violence. Added to this is the precarious economic situation.

The next president also faces these challenges. And they cannot be solved sustainably without a fundamental regime change.

But regime stability is in the interest of all those who are now being considered as possible successors to Raisi. Therefore, I do not see any fundamental change in Tehran’s course in the foreseeable future.

What would happen if it turns out that the helicopter crash was not an accident?

Jäger: If it hadn’t been an accident, you would probably have seen it relatively quickly from the wreckage. I also can’t imagine that the crash could have been a targeted attack. The shadow war with Israel goes far, yes; High-ranking representatives of the regime are targeted. But political leadership is taboo. Mutually. So I don’t think this is a realistic scenario.

How does Russia view the incident in Iran? After all, one of Putin’s most important supporters was hit in the Ukraine war. Putin himself speaks of an “irreplaceable loss”.

Hunter: From the Russian perspective, Raisi’s death is a change that is now being closely monitored. It is in Moscow’s interest to maintain the stability of the Tehran regime. And everything will be done to ensure that there are no changes in the offices that are important to Moscow – especially in the area of ​​military cooperation.

What would be the worst case scenario for Russia?

Jäger: The worst case scenario for Moscow would be that Raisi’s death becomes a signal for mass protests. The potential for this – as we have seen in the last waves of protests – certainly exists in Iran.

All processes that endanger regime stability are a problem from Moscow’s perspective. Because that would run counter to the larger goal of targeting the United States through Iran in a way that causes it to leave the Middle East.

What does Raisi’s death mean for the West’s relations with Iran and the conflict with Israel?

Jäger: I see little change here because the president is of course an important person in Iran’s political system. But he is ultimately dependent on Khamenei, the supreme leader. It determines the guidelines for domestic and foreign policy. And Raisi’s successor will have to rigorously fit in here.

From the regime’s perspective, the most serious consequence of Raisi’s death is now the challenge of finding a person who can be groomed as Chamanei’s successor. A person who is accepted internally and who is assumed to continue established policies – including with regard to Israel and the West.