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After Raisi’s Death, Speculation Over Succession Turns to Ayatollah’s Son

He is known as a man in the shadows of Iranian politics. Yet Mojtaba Khamenei has a powerful influence over a country that rarely sees or hears him.

For years, the son of Iran’s supreme leader has been speculated to be a potential candidate to succeed his father, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

That speculation has grown with the death of Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, who many analysts said was being groomed to replace the supreme leader, who is 85. Mr. Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash on Sunday will not only trigger new presidential elections. It could also shift the dynamics around the selection of Ayatollah Khamenei’s replacement.

“When people started talking about Mojtaba as a potential successor in 2009, I considered it a cheap rumor,” said Arash Azizi, a lecturer at Clemson University who focuses on Iran. “But it’s not that anymore. It’s very clear now that he is a remarkable figure. And he’s remarkable because he’s been almost entirely invisible in the public eye.”

Yet a growing number within Iran’s political establishment have begun to publicly endorse him, added Mr. Azizi.

Mr. Khamenei, 65, is the second son of the ayatollah’s six children. A conservative hard-liner, he grew up in the clerical and political elite of the Islamic Republic, established in 1979, and later fostered ties within the powerful Revolutionary Guards. Today, he is believed to play a critical role in running his father’s office.

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