(UnitedVoice.com) – Iran has faced a growing series of existential challenges recently. Running the gamut from international relations crises and monetary restrictions to a national health disaster, human rights protests, and an economic collapse, the theocracy has kept a tenuous hold on power, relying heavily on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to maintain order. Even so, the unexpected assassination of Ayatollah Abbas Ali Soleimani rocked the nation to its core on Wednesday, April 26.
Surveillance footage obtained by Iranian media showed a bank guard killed Soleimani after calmly walking up behind him with a submachine gun and firing a series of shots. Initial reports indicated a bystander at the bank in the city of Babolsar overpowered a guard and used his weapon, but the video footage helped journalists correct the account. Later, the governor of Mazandaran province, Mahmoud Hosseinipour Nouri, identified a local man as the attacker, one of several guards the bank employs as a security contractor. Authorities have not released a motive.
Iranian ayatollah Abbas-Ali Soleimani, a member of the Assembly of Experts for Leadership of Iran, was assassinated on Wednesday morning in the northern city of Babolsar pic.twitter.com/qGxYHzA40Q
— Emily Schrader – אמילי שריידר امیلی شریدر (@emilykschrader) April 26, 2023
Soleimani, a Shia cleric, once served as Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s personal representative to the province of Sistan-Baluchistan, but he retired in 2019 after serving in that capacity for 17 years. More recently, Soleimani sat on the Assembly of Experts, an 88-member panel of clerics who can choose, monitor, and theoretically remove the Supreme Leader.
The ayatollah’s murder, the senior-most cleric killed in recent years, may represent a public display of the deep discontent that’s been growing over the last few years. First, the middle eastern nation pulled out of the 2015 P5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement, incurring harsh US and international sanctions and destabilizing the nation’s economy heading into the nearly two-year global health crisis that began in 2020.
In September 2022, the country erupted in massive protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman detained by the notorious Morality Police for wearing her hijab incorrectly. The demonstrations grew to encompass more human rights issues, engulfing the nation in work stoppages and literal traffic stops.
In January, the Iranian rial (IRR) experienced significant devaluation and near collapse in the foreign exchange continuing through mid-March this year. The rates only began to stabilize after China negotiated an agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to reestablish diplomatic channels, but experts argue Iran’s government continues to make costly mistakes.
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