The only thing the US fears after the death of the Iranian president

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared five days of public mourning on May 20 following Raisi's death. EPA-EFE

The Biden administration is closely watching how Iran reacts to the president's sudden death, expecting the regional status quo to be maintained, while still wary that an allegation could escalate tensions with Israel.

For now, senior US officials do not expect much - if any - change in Iran's policy before the Islamist-led country elects a new president after the weekend helicopter crash that killed Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdolakhian, analyzes "Politico".

Iranian President Raisi and seven Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, died in a helicopter crash/EPA

Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, 85, remains the highest authority in the country. The immediate political uncertainty revolves around who will be chosen as the next president, a limited process effectively controlled by the country's hardline clerical leaders. A longer-term question – for which Iran is probably better prepared – is who will succeed Khamenei as supreme leader: Raisi was a potential candidate and his death adds more uncertainty to the succession.

Washington is watching Iran's handling of the political crisis and what that means for the race for supreme leader, whose tenure may depend on Khamenei's health. But the Biden administration believes Iran will be too preoccupied with its immediate conundrums to make major changes in its regional policies, including its aid to the proxy powers that many Arab states abuse, Israel and the United States.

Ali Khamenei/ Photo EPA-EFE

"I'm not betting on any policy changes," said a senior administration official, as did five others who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal thinking on the sensitive situation.

Matthew Miller, the State Department's chief spokesman, on Monday offered the administration's "official condolences" over the deaths of Raisi and Amirabdolakhian, a statement that surprised the two countries as adversaries for decades.

"As Iran elects a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms," Miller said in a statement.

Iran has asked for help from the United States as it tries to find the wreckage of the helicopter, Miller said during a press briefing on Monday.

"We said we would be ready to help - something we would do with any government in this situation. "Ultimately, mainly for logistical reasons, we were unable to provide that assistance," Miller said.

Although there is a sense of calm now, that was not the initial feeling when Iranian state media first reported Raisi's suspicious death.

US officials spent the week anxiously awaiting information from the search for the missing helicopter and spent hours wondering how the crash could change the dynamics of the Middle East, Politico reports.

As the search continued for nearly half a day, US officials were also hearing who (if) Iran could blame for the crash, according to three senior administration officials who were not authorized to discuss internal conversations publicly.

Iranian soldiers carry the coffin of late President Ebrahim Raisi during a funeral procession in Tabriz, northwestern Iran/EPA

There were fears that Tehran could quickly blame Israel and the US for sabotaging the transport, although there was no initial intelligence to suggest anything other than a bad weather accident.

"It wouldn't be crazy to ask, 'Is this how World War III starts?'" one of the officials said.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said "the United States had no role in that accident."

Just a few weeks ago, after Israel killed some top Iranian military commanders in Syria, Tehran retaliated by launching more than 300 drones and ballistic missiles at Israel, some of them directly from Iran for the first time since the Islamist regime took power in 1979. states the analysis of "Politico".

President Joe Biden ordered the US military to stop the attack in real time, and some Arab states helped, helping Israel protect its people, military installations and civilian infrastructure. Israel responded with a limited strike near the city of Isfahan, home to a military base that includes Iran's fleet of F-14 Tomcat fighter jets.


Soon after, Iranian state media focused on a return to normalcy in the country, a sign that the revenge was sufficiently appealing to domestic audiences. Tensions calmed down soon after, and neither the US, Israel, nor Iran had any intention of escalating further.

As events unfolded on Sunday, U.S. officials were waiting to see if Iran would blame Israel instead of saying it failed to protect its president, whether because of human error or the use of an old helicopter, two officials said. Such a concession was always unlikely. However, as long as Iran did not shift the blame, the chances of a wider regional conflict remained low, the officials added.

Austin also said Monday "we continue to monitor the situation, but we do not have any knowledge of the cause of the crash at this time," an incident he called "very unfortunate."

For now, Mohammad Mokbar, Iran's first vice president, serves as acting president. replacement of Raisi until new elections are held.

The Vice President of Iran, Mohammad Mokber /Profimedia

Iranian vice presidents are relatively low profile. But Mockber has already caught the attention of the Biden administration for his role in supplying drones and missiles to Russia for use in the war in Ukraine.

In October 2022, Mokber was one of a delegation of senior Iranian officials who traveled to Moscow to finalize the sale of Iranian drones and ballistic missiles to Moscow. US officials have condemned Iran's provision of weapons to Russia, particularly drones that Russia uses to target Ukrainian cities and infrastructure.

A former member of the medical corps of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Mokber is a conservative politician with deep ties to the supreme leader, according to media reports.

He held senior positions at Setad, a Khamenei-controlled conglomerate involved in efforts to develop a Covid-19 vaccine, as well as the Mostazafan Foundation, a charity also controlled by Khamenei that is sanctioned by the US Treasury Department.

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