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Khamenei leads Raisi’s funeral attended by tens of thousands of Iranians, regional leaders

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and a number of other officials.
Iranians follow a truck carrying coffins of the late President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions, who were killed in a helicopter crash, during a funeral ceremony for them on May 22, 2024, in Tehran, Iran.

Officials from Qatar, Egypt and numerous other countries visited Tehran on Wednesday for President Ebrahim Raisi’s funeral, demonstrating regional states’ desire to maintain warm relations with Iran.

Tens of thousands of mourners gathered in the streets on Tehran on Wednesday for Raisi’s funeral. Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several other Iranian officials were killed in a helicopter crash in the country’s northwest on Sunday.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who led prayers at the funeral, met with the following regional leaders who were in town for the procession: Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Tunisian President Kais Saied, Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

Other leaders traveled to Iran as well. Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani and Prime Minister Masrour Barzani attended, the Kurdistan Regional Government said in a press release, while Al Arabiya reported that Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan traveled to Iran for the funeral. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry made his first visit ever to the Islamic Republic for the occasion, according to Reuters. Iranian state media additionally broadcast that Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan was in Tehran, and the Kuwait News Agency reported that Foreign Minister Abdullah Ali al-Yahya attended. Vyacheslav Volodin, the chairman of the lower house of the Russian parliament, also attended.

Hezbollah’s delegation included the head of its executive council, Sayyed Hashem Safieddine, the group’s news outlet, Al-Manar, reported.

Officials from China, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Belarus, Serbia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Algeria, Jordan, Oman and Syria likewise traveled to Iran, the agency reported.

Some observers have suggested that the large crowds in Tehran were not necessarily genuine supporters of Raisi.

“Raisi’s death was a loss for the regime and its supporters, so they did their best to bring as many people as possible, which is what they always do in similar cases,” analyst Niloofar Gholami told the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle on Wednesday.

Numerous Iranians, including those in the diaspora, mocked Raisi’s death on social media. Images circulated depicting Raisi as a character on the American television show “LOST,” for example.

Mohammad Mokhber, who previously served as first vice president, became acting president of Iran following Raisi’s death, while Amir-Abdollahian’s deputy, Ali Bagheri Kani, became acting foreign minister. New elections will take place on June 28, state media reported on Monday.

Why it matters: The deaths of Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian and the other officials sent shock waves through the Iranian political establishment. Raisi, who came to office in 2021, was considered a potential successor to the 85-year-old Khamenei. There are numerous potential successors to Raisi, including Mokhber and long-time Khamenei favorite Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Al-Monitor’s correspondent in Tehran reported on Tuesday.

In Iran’s system, Khamenei is head of state, above the president. Presidential candidates must be approved by the country’s Guardian Council.

Know more: Raisi improved Tehran's ties with China, and Beijing is closely watching to see who will succeed the late president, Yun Sun wrote for Al-Monitor on Tuesday.