Iran’s Acting President Promises Support to Terrorists

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Interim President Mohammad Mokhber held a phone conversation on Sunday with the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to assure his organization that Tehran would continue its sponsorship despite the sudden loss of the late President Ebrahim Raisi.

Mokhber became interim president following the death of Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and six others in a helicopter crash on May 19. The group was returning from a political engagement in Azerbaijan when the helicopter suddenly lost contact with the ground. Iranian officials initially reported that the helicopter had a “hard landing” that had “not been rough” before confirming on May 20 that the helicopter had crashed, killing everyone on board.

The Iranian regime has not provided any clarity regarding the crash’s nature. A preliminary report by the Iranian Armed Forces published on Thursday stated that investigators found no evidence of sabotage, such as bullet holes or explosive residue but did not suggest any alternate explanation for the crash.

Photo taken on May 20, 2024, shows the wreckage of the crashed helicopter near Varzaqan County, some 670 km away from Tehran, Iran, on the footage of Iran’s state-run IRIB TV. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and some members of his accompanying team, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, were confirmed dead Monday morning as the wreckage of the helicopter carrying them was found following its crash in bad weather on Sunday near Varzaqan County. (Shadati/Xinhua via Getty)

Mokhber will remain president through June 28, when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will hold an election to choose Raisi’s true successor. Mokhber has not commented on whether he will attempt to appear on the ballot at press time.

The Iranian state media outlet PressTV reported on Sunday that Mokhber assured the leadership of PIJ that Iran would remain the world’s premier state sponsor of terrorism despite Raisi’s death. Raisi, commonly known as the “butcher of Tehran,” made a career as a ruthless prosecutor ensuring the deaths of thousands of political dissidents and as an enthusiastic supporter of the global jihadist cause.

“He [Mokhber] said that President Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who lost their lives in a helicopter crash last week, were seriously concerned about support for the resistance,” PressTV reported. The “resistance” is Iran’s term for the various radical Islamist organizations it funds in the Middle East, including PIJ, Hamas, the Yemeni Houthi organization, Lebanese Hezbollah, and others.

Mokhber appears to be prioritizing introducing himself to the leaders of various allies of Tehran as the first step to maintaining the presidency. On Saturday, the interim leader met with Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid, who was in the Iranian capital for bilateral talks.

In Iraq, Iran has long backed formerly paramilitary groups known as the “Popular Mobilization Forces” (PMF), a coalition of mostly Shiite groups that fought against the Sunni Islamic State. Following the fall of the “caliphate,” Iraq legally integrated the PMF into the nation’s armed forces but still struggles to control them. A defecting wing of PMF units is believed to be behind the “Islamic Resistance in Iraq,” a term used for Iran-affiliated jihadists who have been attempting to attack Israel since the gruesome Hamas attack on the country on October 7.

Mokhber’s meetings and calls followed a significant meeting featuring representatives of at least six Iran-affiliated organizations last week. The terrorists were reportedly in Tehran for Raisi’s funeral and took the opportunity to attend a meeting with the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force, which specializes in foreign operations. Hamas – whose “political” chief Ismail Haniyeh was allowed to speak at one of several funeral events for Raisi – was represented at the meeting, as well as PIJ, Hezbollah, the Houthis, the Iraqi “resistance” groups, and the “Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.”

“The attendees at the meeting emphasized the need for the continuation of the fight and struggle until the Palestinian resistance’s complete and ultimate victory in the Gaza Strip with the participation of all resistance groups and fronts across the region,” the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported.

The Saudi news agency Al-Arabiya translated reports on the meeting as including a commitment from the group to ensure a “continuation of jihad” against Israel.

Raisi’s abrupt death leaves the succession for both the presidency and the position of “supreme leader” unclear. Many Iran observers believed that Khamenei, an octogenarian with suspected health problems, had begun preparing Raisi to succeed him. Following his death, speculation has landed on Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba, as a potential new “supreme leader” or presidential candidate.

The son of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Mojtaba Khamenei, attends a demonstration to mark Jerusalem day in Tehran May 31, 2019. (Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty)

 

Frances Martel
Frances Martel
Author and editor specializing in international current events.

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