'Technical failure' caused Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's helicopter crash

Iran's former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blames accident to US sanctions on Islamic republic

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Web Desk
Rescue team works following a crash of a helicopter carrying Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, in Varzaqan, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, May 20, 2024. — Reuters
  • Former FM Zarif holds US responsible for Raisi’s demise.
  • 'Decades old' US-made Bell 212 carried Raisi, other officials.
  • Iran to observe five-day mourning after President Raisi's death.

As Iran mourns the unfortunate death of its president, Ebrahim Raisi — a potential successor to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a helicopter crash on Sunday, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) has reported that the chopper faced an accident due to “technical failure”.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, Friday Prayer leader of the city of Tabriz Mohammad Ali Al-e Hashem and others including pilots and flight crew also died when the ill-fated aircraft crashed in mountain terrain amid poor weather on its way back from the East Azerbaijan province.

All passengers, including Raisi, were declared dead when charred wreckage of the Bell 212 helicopter was found early on Monday after an overnight search in blizzard conditions.

The funeral procession for President Raisi will be held in Tehran on Tuesday.

Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran's nuclear programme, announced a five-day mourning period while naming Iran’s First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber as interim president and directing him to ensure the election of a new president within 50 days, as per the country’s constitution.

Though the crash came at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises, with Iran's clerical rulers facing international pressure over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme and heightening tensions with Israel in the backdrop of war in Gaza, any indication of foul play was ruled out by Iran’s state TV.

However, former Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has held the United States responsible for Raisi’s death and “his entourage because of its sanctions on the country’s aviation industry”.

“The Iranian nation has faced great events in these 45 years, and according to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, they will overcome this tragic event,” the state-TV quoted Zarif as saying

Besides other factors stated by the Iranian politician, the “cruel sanctions” against the Islamic state were part of the difficult conditions that Iran had faced and successfully overcome.

The US-made Bell 212, that carried 63-year-old leader, is believed to have been decades old. According to the Washington Post, the aircraft is a widely used civilian version of the Vietnam-era Huey military helicopter, operated by armed forces and businesses around the globe.

Iran also was a major buyer of Bell helicopters under the US-backed regime before the 1979 Islamic revolution but decades of sanctions made it hard for the nation to obtain parts or upgrade its aircraft.

An Al Jazeera report said that the Iranian economy has hit snags and especially its aviation sector has been impacted due to the inability to buy new planes or parts under the sanctions. A spike in deadly air accidents in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s is pertinent to mention.


— Additional input from Reuters