News Digest: Week of May 20

May 20

Domestic: Officials confirmed that President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and six other passengers had died in a helicopter crash the previous day. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Raisi’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, as interim president. One of Mokhber’s first moves was to appoint Ali Bagheri Kani, the deputy foreign minister for political affairs, as acting foreign minister. Iran scheduled presidential elections for June 28. 


May 21

Domestic: The Assembly of Experts, the 88-member body charged with selecting and overseeing the supreme leader, convened for the first time since elections were held in March 2024. Fifty-five of the 83 clerics present voted to install Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, 93, as the new chairman. The hardliner replaced Ahmad Jannati, 97, who did not seek reelection. The new assembly could select Supreme Leader Khamenei’s successor should he die or become unable to fulfill his duties.   


May 22

Domestic: Tens of thousands of people participated in President Raisi’s funeral at Tehran University. The government had sent out mass text messages with information about the event to ensure a strong turnout. Some citizens traveled for hours to attend. Supreme Leader Khamenei led prayers before the caskets. “Oh Allah, we didn’t see anything but good from him.”

International: General Esmail Ghaani, the commander of the elite Qods Force, held a meeting on the situation in Gaza with representatives from Iran’s militia allies, the so-called Axis of Resistance Network. The participants included:

  • Hamas politiburo chief Ismail Haniyeh
  • Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qassem
  • Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul Salam 
  • Revolutionary Guards Commander Hossein Salami

International: During a meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Supreme Leader Khamenei lauded the group for its attacks on Israel. The “elimination of Israel is feasible,” he said

International: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Sukhri told interim President Mokhber that Cairo would boost relations with Iran. He was the first Egyptian foreign minister to visit Iran since the 1979 revolution. In 2023, the two countries discussed the possibility of normalizing diplomatic relations.