It’s hard not to see the death of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last week as a reflection of the Islamic republic’s institutional decrepitude. As is generally the case when the mullahs find themselves under pressure, their default position is to blame the West.

In the warped universe Iran’s rulers inhabit, the helicopter crash that killed Raisi and seven others, including the foreign minister, was not due to the incompetence of those responsible for operating and maintaining the aircraft. The blame apparently lies squarely with the West for imposing the sanctions that have denied Tehran the ability to purchase the aviation parts required to maintain the US Bell 212 helicopter in which the Iranian leader perished.

Rather than, as former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif declared, adding the crash to “the list of US crimes against the Iranian people”, the regime might like to reflect on its own willingness to risk the safety of its leaders in such a dilapidated aircraft.

Tehran’s desire to deflect blame is necessary if the regime is to weather the fresh round of political turmoil that Raisi’s death has unleashed against the battered bastions of Iran’s increasingly unpopular Islamic revolution. While Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is desperately trying to pretend that it is “business as usual”, the fact that the mullahs cannot even provide basic security for their president only confirms the mounting perception among Iranians of a regime in terminal decline.

For all Iran’s pretensions to be seen as a major force in the world, the bitter reality is that, in the 45 years since the ayatollahs seized power, this once proud nation has been reduced to the status of a basket case. With inflation running at between 30-50 per cent, and youth unemployment often at nearly 30 per cent, it is likely the country would be facing bankruptcy were it not for the economic support it receives from China, which buys significant quantities of Iranian oil at a discount.

The war in Gaza, meanwhile, has exposed the hollowness of Iran’s claim to be a major military power. Tehran’s “axis of resistance”, the network of terror groups it maintains in the Middle East that includes Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, has proved no match for Israeli firepower. Iran’s own effort to target Israel directly last month proved a dismal failure, with nearly all the projectiles being intercepted.

The regime’s fundamental weakness has not been lost on ordinary Iranians, who have increasingly vented their disapproval with their leaders by staging protests. While most Iranians are denied the chance of registering their contempt for the regime at the ballot box, that has not stopped them maintaining a constant wave of anti-government demonstrations, even if it means incurring the wrath of the Iranian security forces. It is a measure of the regime’s desperation to keep a lid on this seething discontent that executions have reached record levels, with protesters, bloggers and notable dissidents receiving death sentences under the catch all charge of committing “enmity against God”.

In such circumstances, the death of Raisi comes at a critical juncture for the Iranian regime, one which the Western powers should be exploiting. Rather than virtue-signalling their remorse, as the UN Security Council did by observing a moment of silence in honour of one of Iran’s most notorious killers, the West should be doing its level best to highlight the fact the regime’s days are numbered.

Khamenei may have sanctioned fresh elections to be held on June 28, but they will hardly be democratic. All candidates must have their Islamic credentials approved by the Guardian Council and Khamenei, with even dedicated supporters of the regime being barred from standing. At the very least Western leaders should call out the sham that is Iranian democracy, and declare their support for all of those brave Iranian activists who seek a brighter, and less confrontational, future for their country.

Source » yahoo