Monday 20 May 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 20/5/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Image: Getty Images

Obituary / Andrew Mueller

Iran’s President Raisi killed in helicopter crash

The president of Iran is a powerful man, he heads the government of a 90 million strong nation. However, it is not the most powerful position in the country. That status is enjoyed by the Supreme Leader, of which there have been just two since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 – Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei. Of the eight presidents who have served them and their unforgiving vision, Ebrahim Raisi was probably the one with whom either figure had the least difficulty.

His first months as president were a demonstration of a universal rule of politics. He directed funding towards defence at the expense of ameliorating the economic struggles of ordinary Iranians and showed little interest in a renewed nuclear deal which might have lifted American sanctions.

He encouraged Iran’s morality police – which is to say, grown men paid by the state to pester women about how they are wearing their scarves – to pursue rigorous transgressions against the compulsory hijab. This had seismic consequences in 2022, when a young woman called Mahsa Amini died in the custody of one such goon squad: huge protests across Iran were answered with state violence. Hundreds died.

Raisi was a hardliner abroad as well as at home, this was demonstrated most obviously in April 2024 when Iran launched a barrage of hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel, following Israel’s bombing of Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus. Though the two countries had waged a shadow war for years, the abandonment of pretence was significant.

While Raisi, despite being president, was never the real power, it was suspected in some quarters that the elderly Khamenei had long been sizing him up as a successor. Raisi’s passing in such circumstances, along with that of foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, will inevitably occasion excitement among those who believe that a helicopter cannot simply crash in heavy fog; it would not be out of character for the regime he served, dependent as it has always been on a paranoid narrative of persecution, to help such speculation along.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For all the latest developments and updates on Raisi's death, tune in to Monocle Radio.

The Briefings


UK anti-drone defence developments take flight

The UK’s Ministry of Defence has announced the development of an innovative weapon that uses radio waves to disable enemy drones. Dubbed as the Radio Frequency Directed Energy Weapon will be able to detect and track approaching electronics across land, air and sea. Development has been praised by analysts for its cost-effective alternative to traditional missile-based air-defence systems, which rely on a constant replenishment of stock. The highly mobile weapon costs only 10 pence per shot fired and requires one person to operate it. Drones have been used extensively in warfare, including in Russia’s assault on Ukraine and Iran’s recent attack on Israel. But they also pose a growing risk to countries without active battlefields. London’s Gatwick Airport closed for more than a day in 2018 as a result of drone activity, while South Korea’s military was forced to apologise after failing to shoot down five North Korean drones in 2022.

Image: Reuters


The new nine-to-five: missile building

One obviously doffs one’s cap to the intelligence services of North Korea only reluctantly: nevertheless, it has to be conceded that one enterprising spook has earned a bonus turnip. The US State Department has acknowledged that North Korean IT workers, borrowing the identities of US citizens, have been securing remote working contracts with hundreds of American companies – earning millions of dollars, which have been ploughed into North Korea’s missile programmes. Five people have now been arrested in the US, accused of facilitating the undeniably ingenious scheme.

The scam has partly been possible due to a shortage of technology workers (weird, considering the six-figure salaries that the North Koreans were reportedly earning). But it’s also a lesson in the laziness and sloppiness that can be encouraged by technology itself: in-person job interviews would have forestalled this swindle. During the remote-working boom, employers often complained that they didn’t know whether their employees were working. They should now be concerned about who their employees are.


Athens revives the golden age of the silver screen

In an era when streaming services reign supreme, the choice to revive a long-closed open-air cinema might seem unconventional. Yet for Dafni Bechtsi, founder and CEO of Cinobo, Greece’s premier streaming platform for independent films, reopening Cine Paris is a strategic move. It is one that’s fuelled by a deep passion for community and Greece’s affinity for outdoor theatres. “Our goal is to revitalise traditional cinema-going habits,” says Bechtsi.

Image: Cine Paris
Image: Cine Paris

Originally established in 1920, Cine Paris sits on a busy street in downtown Athens’s Plaka neighbourhood. Following a careful restoration, there is now a wooden entrance and a newly installed neon sign in shades of green and yellow. The allure of the venue is its rooftop screening area, where filmgoers can sit in the shadow of the Acropolis. “We plan to show a series of films from Greek 1950s and 1960s cinema as a tribute to Athens,” adds Bechtsi. And, should a film fail to captivate, a simple glance to the left promises its own spectacle.

Beyond the Headlines

In print / Issue 173

Inside the labyrinth of European politics

Twelve times a year, thousands of parliamentarians and their staff journey to the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament for four days of deliberation. As the far-right ascends across the continent, what lies ahead for this “travelling circus”?

In the Hemicycle

Image: Kevin Faingnaert

All hands on deck and mixed bags

Image: Kevin Faingnaert

Media zone

Image: Kevin Faingnaert

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Monocle Radio / The Stack

Passion for print

This week we speak to David Marchese and Lulu Garcia-Navarro about their new weekly series from The New York Times called The Interview. We also speak to Sandra Reichl and Karin Novozamsky from the Austrian title A Passion Thing. Plus: we find out more about the Monocle x Gucci collaboration.


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