The ‘Butcher of Tehran and corrupt bureaucrat’: Raisi’s death changes nothing, says analyst

‘The IRGC never held Raisi in high esteem because he was a nothing, he was corrupt and nothing else,’ said Alex Grinman an Iran expert at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

As Israel denounced international officials for paying tribute to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, one analyst described him as a “corrupt bureaucrat” and “a nobody” best known for executing thousands of political dissidents in 1988, and whose death will not change Iran.

Raisi, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and six other passengers were killed when their helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of northern Iran in foggy conditions on Sunday.

The United Nations Security Council held a minute of silence for Raisi on Monday, drawing the anger of Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan.

“You read correctly, the UN Security Council today held a moment’s silence to remember a mass murder, Iranian President Raisi,” said Erdan in a video statement.

“This body, which makes no effort to free our hostages, tipped their heads today to a man who was responsible for the deaths of thousands in Iran, in Israel, and around the world. What’s next? A minute of silence on the anniversary of Hitler’s death?”

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‘The Name of the Game is Political Survival’

The Press Service of Israel discussed what Raisi’s death means with Alex Grinman, an Iran expert at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.

“Iran’s president doesn’t play a very important role. He’s responsible for executing the Supreme Guide’s policies. He’s responsible for executing the economic policy of the country. The president has no say, even a formal one, over foreign policy or Iran’s regional policy such as the proxy wars and support for terrorist organizations. So from this vantage point, Raisi’s death is not very important,” Grinman explained to TPS-IL.

“I would say the death of the Foreign Affairs Minister is even more important. Raisi was nothing. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was a gifted foreign minister and he was an effective speaker, which is important. Most Iranians never speak Arabic. If you want to lead and manipulate the Arab masses, that’s important,” Grinman added.

Grinman said he ruled out the likelihood of the helicopter crash being an assassination. Killing Raisi would be too complicated and too risky for a foreign government to carry out, he explained, adding that nobody in Iran was interested in killing him either.

“The IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps] never held Raisi in high esteem because he was a nothing. He was corrupt and nothing else,” said Grinman.

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As for Israel’s war with Hamas and fighting along the Lebanese border, Raisi’s death will not change anything.

“What is known is that Iran is not interested in a large-scale war between Israel and Hezbollah. They don’t want to sacrifice Hezbollah for Hamas. Iran’s strategy is based on the premise of not dragging Iran into war. But now, the ball is in Israel’s court, because the war with Hezbollah is already going on,” Grinman said.

Asked how Raisi’s death would set back Tehran’s drive for nuclear weapons, Grinman told TPS-IL, “Yes, but not directly.”

According to Grinman, the government tends to push forward on its nuclear program when it feels stable. But during times of political instability, “the regime is more determined to protect itself. The name of the game is political survival.”

Raisi earned the nickname, “The Butcher of Tehran,” because “during his revolutionary years, he sent many people to death” in his role in a revolutionary court, Grinman explained. “None of these people were criminals.” Thousands of political dissidents were tortured and executed in 1988 while others disappeared.

At the same time, news of Raisi’s death highlighted a gap between the clerical regime and the public.

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“There’s public joy, and the regime can’t cover it up,” Grinman said.

Interim President Mohammed Mokhber is a “more gifted politician, but isn’t well-known,” said Grinman.

“The real issue is who will succeed Khamenei, but this issue is taboo. Nobody can imagine publicly debating the issue of succession, and Khamenei doesn’t have good options. But the president isn’t so important,” Grinman explained.

Khamenei is 85 years old and subject to periodic rumors about his health.

Iran announced on Tuesday that presidential elections will be held on June 28. Only candidates approved by the powerful Guardians Council can run.