top of page

Source: Washington Post

May 20, 2024

Who is Mohammad Mokhber? Iran taps acting president after Raisi’s death

Mohammad Mokhber, as Iran’s first vice president since 2021, assumes interim presidential powers after Ebrahim Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash in Iran.

By Kim Bellware and Leo Sands

Mohammad Mokhber, Iran’s first vice president, was appointed acting president Monday after the death of Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash.

Iran’s constitution specifies that — if approved by the supreme leader — the first vice president will assume acting presidential powers if the president dies. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tapped Mokhber on Monday to ensure the election of a new president within 50 days, state media reported.

State media also reported that Mokhber, 68, led an emergency meeting of the Iranian government’s cabinet and was receiving calls from foreign officials as the death of Raisi was announced.

Raisi, 63, who was killed along with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other officials after his helicopter crashed in poor weather and thick fog, was widely considered to be a potential future supreme leader of Iran.

Here’s what to know about Mokhber.

Who is Mohammad Mokhber?

Since 2021, Mokhber has served as Raisi’s top deputy. He is the most senior of Iran’s 12 vice presidents.

Mokhber has close ties with Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader; in 2007, Khamenei handpicked Mokhber to be the chief executive of Setad, a multibillion-dollar financial empire controlled exclusively by Khamenei.

Many of Setad’s assets derive from property seized from Iranian citizens, a 2013 Reuters investigation revealed.

Under Mokhber, Setad developed Barkat, an Iranian coronavirus vaccine that was fast-tracked by Iranian officials during the pandemic but ultimately failed to meet its ambitious delivery targets and proved to be lackluster in its impact on the pandemic. In the end, most Iranians who were vaccinated against the coronavirus received a Chinese shot.

Iranian state media reported that he left his role at Setad in 2021.

According to his official biography, Mokhber was born in Dezful, in central Iran, and holds a doctorate in international law. According to the Associated Press, Mokhber has also held roles in high-profile Iranian charitable foundations known as “bonyads.”

What are some of Mokhber’s policy positions?

Mokhber has been sanctioned by the United States and its allies. In 2010, the European Union sanctioned him and seven other Iranians for being “involved in nuclear or ballistic missiles activities,” although he was removed from the sanctions list two years later.

The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Mokhber in 2021 for his financial role in what it called Iran’s “systemic corruption and mismanagement.” Six months after the U.S. penalty, Mokhber assumed office as Iran’s top vice president.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Mokhber has also played a role in bolstering Iran’s ties with Moscow. Months after Khamenei met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in July 2022 in the Russian capital, Mokhber traveled with senior Iranian security officials to Moscow, where Reuters reported that they agreed on new weapons deliveries.

In Moscow, Mokhber proposed that Russia and Iran work closely together in the face of Western sanctions. “We have been under these sanctions for 40 years and did not allow them to undermine the government of the country or to seriously affect us,” Mokhber said in Moscow.

What does Iran’s constitution say about presidential succession?

Under Article 131 of the Iranian constitution, which was adopted in 1989, Iran’s first vice president will assume acting presidential powers if a president dies in office.

A council of leaders from the executive, legislative and judicial branches — the first vice president, the speaker of parliament and the chief justice — is responsible for arranging a special election for a new president within 50 days.

At a meeting of top Iranian officials on Monday, Mokhber said that Iran’s constitutional foundations were strong, and he urged his colleagues to continue their government work without disruption.

“The framework and foundations of the system are strong, and there will not be the slightest problem in the administration of the country under the permanent shadow of the leadership,” he said.

bottom of page