Ebrahim Raisi: Iran Controversial President and Potential Supreme Leader

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran President, Supreme Leader Successor, Iranian Politics, Iran Nuclear Deal, JCPOA, Mahsa Amini Protests, Iran-Israel Relations, Iran Judiciary, Iranian Leadership

Explore the life and political journey of Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s President and a significant figure in the country’s religious and political landscape. Learn about his early years, rise in the judiciary, presidential ambitions, connections within the establishment, and his handling of domestic and international challenges.

Ebrahim Raisi
Ebrahim Raisi

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s 63-year-old President, has long been regarded as a significant political figure and a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His career, marked by his deep connections within the judiciary and religious elite, underscores his influence and prominence in Iran’s political landscape. A hardline and religiously conservative politician, Raisi’s journey to the presidency was not straightforward, reflecting both his resilience and the complex dynamics of Iranian politics.

Ebrahim Raisi Early Years

Ebrahim Raisi was born in 1960 in the city of Mashhad. At the young age of 15, he began his studies at the renowned Qom religious seminary, learning under several prominent Muslim scholars. His early immersion in religious education laid the foundation for his future roles in Iran’s judiciary and political spheres. By his early 20s, Raisi had already embarked on his judicial career, serving as a prosecutor in several cities before moving to Tehran as a deputy prosecutor.

In 1983, Raisi married Jamileh Alamolhoda, the daughter of Mashhad’s Friday Prayer Imam Ahmad Alamolhoda. They have two daughters together. This marriage further solidified his connections within the religious establishment, aligning him with influential clerical families.

Rise in the Judiciary

Raisi’s career in the judiciary saw a significant turning point in 1988 when he was part of a committee that oversaw the execution of political prisoners, an event that remains controversial. This period in his career has made him unpopular among many Iranian opposition groups and led to sanctions imposed on him by the United States. Despite this, Raisi continued to rise through the ranks, becoming the prosecutor of Tehran in 1989, shortly after the death of Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Under Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Khamenei, Raisi’s influence grew. In 2016, he was appointed the chairman of the Astan Quds Razavi, the largest religious endowment in Mashhad, further cementing his status within Iran’s establishment. This position not only enhanced his religious credentials but also provided him with significant economic resources and a substantial platform from which to launch his political ambitions.

Presidential Ambitions

Raisi first ran for president in 2017, challenging the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, who was seeking re-election. Rouhani, viewed as a moderate, had overseen the negotiation of the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which restricted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Raisi, a critic of the JCPOA, represented a more hardline bloc within Iran’s political spectrum. Although he lost the 2017 election, this did not deter him. Instead, he began preparing for another bid for the presidency.

In June 2021, Raisi ran again and won 62 percent of the vote. However, this election was marked by a low turnout of 48.8 percent, attributed to the disqualification of several reformist and moderate candidates. By this time, the JCPOA was in disarray, primarily due to the United States’ unilateral withdrawal under former President Donald Trump and the re-imposition of sanctions, which had severely impacted Iran’s economy.

Connections and Governance

Raisi’s strong connections within the religious and political establishment have been a cornerstone of his career. His relationships with both the late Ayatollah Khomeini and current Supreme Leader Khamenei have been instrumental in his rise to power. Additionally, Raisi has managed to maintain good relations across various branches of government, including the military, legislative bodies, and the influential theocratic ruling class.

However, his presidency has coincided with significant public discontent over economic conditions and living standards, exacerbated by international sanctions and domestic policies prioritizing defense over economic issues. This dissatisfaction was most evident in late 2022, following the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police. Her death sparked widespread protests, with women at the forefront, challenging the country’s mandatory hijab rules and other restrictive policies. The protests, which lasted for months, were met with a harsh crackdown by security forces, resulting in the deaths of approximately 500 people and the execution of seven individuals involved in the unrest.

A United Nations fact-finding mission concluded in March 2023 that Iran had committed crimes against humanity during the crackdown, including murder, torture, and rape. These events have highlighted the challenges Raisi faces in balancing the demands of a restive population with the expectations of a conservative ruling elite.

International Standoffs

On the international front, Raisi has not shied away from confrontation. His administration has been particularly vocal against the United States regarding the JCPOA and the broader geopolitical dynamics of the Middle East. Angered by the US’s stance and the inability of other signatories to salvage the nuclear deal, Raisi announced that Iran would step up its nuclear program, though he asserted that Iran was not pursuing a nuclear bomb.

The regional rivalry between Iran and Israel has also been a defining feature of Raisi’s presidency. The longstanding animosity between the two countries has manifested in various ways, including military standoffs and proxy conflicts. In early April 2023, an Israeli strike on the Iranian consular building in Damascus, which resulted in the deaths of several individuals, including a top Iranian commander, further escalated tensions. In response, Iran launched a significant missile and drone attack on Israel, showcasing its military capabilities and resolve.

Iran’s involvement in Syria, supporting President Bashar al-Assad during the country’s prolonged civil war, has also been a focal point of Raisi’s foreign policy. This support has strengthened Iran’s influence in the region and solidified its alliance with groups like Hezbollah.


Ebrahim Raisi’s tenure as Iran’s president has been marked by significant domestic challenges and complex international relations. His deep-rooted connections within Iran’s religious and political establishment have bolstered his authority, making him a pivotal figure in the country’s future. Despite facing public discontent and international scrutiny, Raisi’s strong relationships and strategic maneuvering position him as a potential candidate for the highest post in Iran, that of Supreme Leader. As Iran navigates its internal and external challenges, Raisi’s leadership will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the country’s trajectory.

Read More-

Leave a Comment