This is who Ebrahim Raisi is: the ultra-conservative loyal to Khamenei and great enemy of Israel


By John

Ebrahim Raisi, whose fate remains uncertain after the news of the helicopter crash in which he was traveling in the North-West of the country, he has been president of the Islamic Republic for three years, in a context of strong international tensions and widespread internal protest. Ayatollah Raisi, 63, is considered an ultra-conservative and was the candidate supported by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, in the 2021 presidential election, when his main rivals were prevented from running. With Raisi's presidency, all branches of power in Iran came under the control of anti-Western extremist factions loyal to Khamenei, and the repression of dissent has intensified. Presenting himself as a champion of the disadvantaged classes and of the fight against corruption, Raisi was elected on 18 June 2021 in the first round of a vote characterized by record abstention and the absence of real competitors. He succeeded the more moderate Hassan Rouhani – supporter of the 2015 nuclear deal – who had beaten him in the 2017 presidential elections but could no longer run again after two consecutive terms. Raisi emerged strengthened from the legislative elections held last March, the first national consultation after the vast protest movement Woman, Life, Freedom that shook Iran at the end of 2022, following the death of Mahsa Amini, the girl who died in Tehran while she was in the custody of the moral police, who had arrested her because she would not wear the veil correctly. The Parliament, which will take office on May 27, will be largely under the control of the conservatives and ultra-conservatives, who support his government.

In recent months, Raisi has presented himself as a resolute opponent of Israel, the sworn enemy of the Islamic Republic, supporting Hamas since the start of the war with Israel in the Gaza Strip, following the October 7 carnage in the kibbutzim. He welcomed the unprecedented attack launched by Iran on 13 April against Israel, with 350 drones and missiles, most of which were intercepted with the help of the United States and numerous other allied countries. Born in November 1960 in the Shiite holy city of Mashhad (North-East), Raisi made a career in the judicial system for three decades, after being appointed prosecutor general of Karaj, near Tehran, at just 20 years old, in the wake of the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In 2016, Khamenei placed him at the helm of the powerful Astan Quds Razavi charitable foundation, which manages Imam Reza's mausoleum in Mashhad as well as immense industrial and real estate assets. In 2019, Khamenei placed him at the helm of the judiciary and shortly thereafter US sanctions began against him for the role he played in the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988; a responsibility that earned him the nickname “butcher of Tehran”. Iran has never acknowledged these killings. As dissidents feared, his presidency saw a surge in executions and repression. Without much charisma and always wearing the classic black turban that characterizes the 'seyyed', the descendants of Muhammad, Raisi attended Ayatollah Khamenei's Islamic religion and jurisprudence courses. He is married to Jamileh Alamolhoda, a professor of education at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, with whom he has two daughters.
The Iranian president is considered among the favorites to succeed the now elderly and ill Khamenei. If he were to lose his life in today's accident, the leadership of the government would pass to his deputy, Mohammad Mokhber, and new elections should be called within the next 50 days.