Who is Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi?

Ebrahim Raisi, 63, a hardline religious cleric, was elected president of Iran in 2021. During his term as president, he oversaw a strategy to expand his country's regional influence – supporting militant proxies across the Middle East, accelerating the country's nuclear weapons program and bringing the country to the brink of war with Israel.

But during the same period, Iran experienced some of the largest anti-government protests in decades and a severe economic downturn caused by international sanctions and high unemployment.

Mr. Raisi is seen as a possible successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as supreme leader, the highest political and religious position in the Islamic Republic.

Mr. Raisi, born in the eastern city of Mashhad in 1960 to a strict religious family, was swept up in the passion of Iran's Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the country's monarchy in 1979.

A religious scholar in Iran's theocratic government and a protégé of Ayatollah Khamenei, Mr. Raisi rose to prominence in the judiciary and served as a prosecutor in several cities.

After being appointed Iran's top judge in 1988, he is said to have served on a small committee that ordered the execution of thousands of political dissidents.

Mr. Raisi is accused of decades of human rights abuses and is the subject of criminal sanctions by the United States.

During Mr. Raisi's presidency, large anti-government protests erupted in Iran following the death in police custody of a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini. Authorities responded with a brutal crackdown that included murders and executions.

Tehran has also continued its uranium enrichment program and advanced its ballistic missile program.
A years-long shadow war with Israel erupted openly last month after Iran fired a volley of hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. This attack followed escalating tensions between the two countries after Hamas, an Iran-backed militant group, invaded Israel on October 7.

Anna Harden

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