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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is presumed to be dead after a helicopter carrying him and his entourage crashed in Iran’s northwestern province of East Azerbaijan. The helicopter was reportedly transporting Raisi, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and Tabriz Friday prayers leader Ayatollah Mohammed Ali Ale-Hashem. The crash site was covered by heavy fog, making the search and rescue effort challenging. A thermal signal believed to be the wrecked aircraft was identified by a drone provided by Turkey, but no evidence of survivors was found at the crash site.

The Iranian government has not officially announced Raisi’s death or that of his companions on the trip. If Raisi’s death is confirmed, Iranian Vice President Muhammad Mukhbar would be set to assume acting presidential duties with the approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. New elections would then be held within 50 days. Raisi, a former judiciary chief, was elected president in June 2021 and was expected to stand for re-election for a second four-year term next year. His death would mark a major loss for Iran’s conservative elite who have consolidated power in recent years.

Raisi’s death comes at a turbulent time for the region, with Iran playing a leading role in the crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas Movement in the Gaza Strip. Iran supports Hamas and the “Axis of Resistance,” a coalition of non-state actors that have launched attacks against Israel from various countries. Tensions between Iran and Israel escalated recently, with Israel conducting airstrikes on an Iranian consular building in Damascus and Iran retaliating with a missile and drone barrage. Israel also reportedly targeted an air defense site within Iran.

Iran’s involvement in regional conflicts has increased in recent years, with the country becoming a key player in the Middle East. Raisi’s death adds uncertainty to Iran’s political landscape and could impact the balance of power within the country. The situation is developing, and more information will be provided as it becomes available. Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and seeking common ground in the midst of complex geopolitical events.

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