Policy Brief

Will Iranian policy towards Iraq change after the passing of Raisi and Abdollahian?

Iran lost its President Ebrahim Raisi and its Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on May 20, 2024, due to the crash of the helicopter that was carrying them along with other officials. This was considered a significant loss for Iran, given Raisi and Abdollahian influential positions in the Iranian chain of command below the Supreme Leader and the importance of these two men in future political calculations in Iran, especially the selection of a successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to the standards of the deep state in Iran, the late President Raisi was one of the candidates to succeed the Supreme Leader, and the late Foreign Minister Abdollahian was qualified for the presidency if Raisi were to become the Supreme Leader.

Since the day of the incident, discussions have been ongoing regarding its repercussions and potential impacts on the Iranian scene. This incident will certainly leave a deep mark on Iran's domestic politics. However, concerning its impact on Iranian foreign policy, it is believed that no significant change or impact will occur as long as the supreme authority for making crucial political and security decisions in Iran rests with the "Supreme Leader." The presidency and the foreign ministry serve as high executive institutions rather than supreme executive authorities.

However, some believe this incident will also affect Iranian foreign policy. Many of Iran's foreign policies result from the interactions between the internal political-security environment and the regional and international political-security environments. Additionally, Raisi and Abdollahian could harness Iranian foreign policy to serve the Supreme Leader's directives. They possessed qualifications that aligned closely with the political-security approach of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It might be difficult for the Iranian political system to replicate their experience in the future with other officials.

After 2003, Iraqi affairs became one of the most important issues in Iranian foreign policy. The political, security, and social transformations in Iraq following the US invasion and occupation provided Iran with strategic opportunities to enhance its roles and interests in this country and throughout the region. This was particularly the case after the Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus-Beirut-Mediterranean route became passable without significant obstacles.

Within the framework of various opinions on the repercussions of the Iranian presidential helicopter crash incident: what are the impacts of Raisi and Abdollahian's decease on Iran's policy towards Iraq? Will their absence affect the nature of Iranian roles in Iraq? or will it affect the nature of the policies adopted to implement those roles, with the roles themselves remaining unchanged?