Aggression or caution?

Prayers and hope: Raisi’s sudden death disrupts a careful effort at a smooth transition to a new supreme leader to replace the ageing Ali Khamenei. — ©2024 The New York Times Company

IN their three years in power, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his equally hard-line foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, did everything they could to consolidate the “Axis of Resistance” against the United States and Israel.

They funded Hamas and Hezbollah. They armed the Houthis, feeding the militia intelligence that fuelled attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea. They cracked down on dissent at home; launched Iran’s first direct missile attacks on Israel, after Israel killed several Iranian generals; and turned Iran into a “threshold” nuclear state that could produce fuel for three or four bombs in short order.

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