No Sign Of Foul Play In Iran President's Deadly Helicopter Crash, Early Report Says

TOP STORIES 

No Sign Of Foul Play In Iran President's Deadly Helicopter Crash, Early Report Says | Reuters 

A preliminary report by Iran's military said no evidence of foul play or attack had been found so far during investigations into the helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi, state media reported on Friday. Raisi, a hardliner who had been seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed when his helicopter came down in poor weather in mountains near the Azerbaijan border on Monday. "Signs of gunshot or similar were not observed in the wreckage of the helicopter (which) crashed in an area in high altitude and burst into flames," the report issued by the armed forces general staff said. "Nothing suspicious has been observed in the control tower's conversations with the flight crew," it added. More details would be released as the investigation advanced, the report said. Raisi was buried in the Shi'ite Muslim holy city of Mashhad on Thursday, four days after the crash that also killed Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and six others.  

Iran's Near-Bomb-Grade Uranium Stock Grows, Talks Stall, IAEA Reports Say | Reuters 

Iran is enriching uranium to close to weapons-grade at a steady pace while discussions aimed at improving its cooperation with the U.N. nuclear watchdog are stalled, two confidential reports by the watchdog showed on Monday. The International Atomic Energy Agency faces a range of difficulties in Iran, including the fact it only implemented a small fraction of the steps IAEA chief Rafael Grossi thought it committed to in a "Joint Statement" on cooperation last year. "There has been no progress in the past year towards implementing the Joint Statement of 4 March 2023," one of the two reports to member states, both of which were seen by Reuters, said. Grossi travelled to Iran this month for talks with Iranian officials aimed at improving cooperation and IAEA monitoring in Iran. Follow-up talks have stalled, however, after the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last week.   

Iran’s Acting President Addresses New Parliament After Helicopter Crash Killing President, Others | Associated Press 

Iran’s acting President Mohammad Mokhber addressed the country’s new parliament Monday in his first public speech since last week’s helicopter crash that killed his predecessor and seven others. His speech comes as Iran prepares for a presidential election to replace the late Ebrahim Raisi in just a month, a vote that could see the previously behind-the-scenes bureaucrat potentially run alongside others. Meanwhile, Iran’s new hard-line parliament is expected to select its new speaker Tuesday. In his remarks, Mokhber praised Raisi’s time in office, noting that Iran’s crude oil production— a key source of hard currency for the country — climbed to more than 3.6 million barrels a day. That comes after Oil Minister Javad Owji said Sunday that Iran was now exporting around 2 million barrels a day, despite Western sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic.  

UANI IN THE NEWS 

What Does The SHIP Act Mean For Shipping? | The Lloyd’s List Podcast 

…In this week’s podcast, our guests Brian Maloney, partner in Seward & Kissel’s litigation and investigation group, and Claire Jungman, chief of staff at advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, will walk through the nuances of the new bill, how it fits in with the existing alphabet soup of US sanctions authorities, and how it could impact maritime supply chains, especially in China, to where most of Iran’s oil is exported. 

Several EU Countries Push To Designate IRGC As A Terror Organization | Iran International 

…The Trump administration sanctioned the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization in 2019. When asked what President Biden can do to convince the EU to sanction the IRGC, Jason Brodsky, the policy director for the US-based United Against Nuclear Iran, told Iran International “I think the Biden administration should be making this issue a priority and pushing very hard for the EU and the UK to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. This would be a force multiplier in the transatlantic sanctions architecture against Tehran.” He added “There is strong bipartisan support for the EU and UK to take this step. The US should be making it clear to its allies that not sanctioning the IRGC as a terrorist organization will have ramifications in their relations with the United States.”  

The Main Contenders To Replace Raisi In Iran’s Snap Presidential Election | Voice Of America 

…One possible candidate for next month’s race for is acting President Mohammad Mokhber, who had been Raisi’s first vice president and was next in line to assume the presidency upon the president’s death, according to the terms of Iran’s Islamist constitution. Jason Brodsky, policy director for U.S. advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and a longtime observer of Iranian politics, said he has seen mixed signals about whether Mokhber will register as a presidential candidate. He discussed other likely contenders in an interview for the Monday edition of VOA’s “Flashpoint Global Crises” program.  

Iran Replaces Dead Foreign Minister With Lead Nuclear Deal Negotiator | Breitbart 

…United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), an organization dedicated to opposing the illegal nuclear weapons development by the regime, described Baqeri in a recent profile as “a hardline revolutionary diplomat who owes his career to familial connections and ties to the Supreme Leader.” “His diplomatic record does not show much success, but he is an ideologue and has the right connections, which explains why he has been promoted throughout his career,” the organization explained. 

After Ali Khamenei, What’s Next In Iran? | The Dispatch 

…Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash earlier this month left Iran without its top contender to replace Khamenei. A hardline cleric with experience heading the judiciary before claiming the presidency in 2021, Raisi was also “considered a loyal lieutenant to Iran’s supreme leader,” Jason Brodsky, the policy director for the think tank United Against Nuclear Iran, told The Dispatch. “And no other person in the Islamic Republic’s political elite has been able to claim they presided over two branches of government like Raisi has, so that is a loss for the system.” Now, the supreme leader’s hope for a smooth succession to protect both his legacy and the long-term stability of the Islamic Republic is far from assured. Khamenei’s second-eldest son, Mojtaba, has been named as his father’s possible replacement, but his appointment could cause divisions among the regime’s elite and pushback from its core support base.  

No Condolences For The Iranian President’s Death, Please | UANI Advisor For Policy And Washington Outreach Alan Goldsmith For Jewish News Syndicate 

The death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is no cause for tears. The “Butcher of Tehran,” who perished in a helicopter crash on May 19, was a human-rights abuser responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iranians and the oppression of millions. Unfortunately, senior officials of leading democracies and democratic multilateral organizations, including the United States, NATO and the European Union nations, have expressed condolences on Raisi’s passing. Instead, free nations should seize this moment to push for the rise of liberty and democracy in Iran in place of the current repressive regime.  

NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM 

U.S., European Powers Divided Over Confronting Iran At IAEA, Diplomats Say | Reuters 

The U.S. and its three top European allies are divided over whether to confront Iran at the U.N. nuclear watchdog by seeking a resolution against it and thereby risk further escalation, with the Europeans in favour, diplomats say. It is 18 months since the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors last passed a resolution against Iran, ordering it to cooperate urgently with a years-long IAEA investigation into uranium particles found at three undeclared sites. While the number of sites in question has been narrowed to two, Iran still has not explained the traces, and the number of other problems in Iran has risen including Tehran barring many of the IAEA's top uranium-enrichment experts on the inspection team. A quarterly Board of Governors meeting begins in 10 days. "It's extremely difficult with Iran and the level of violations is unprecedented ... There is no slowing down of its programme and there is no real goodwill by Iran to cooperate with the IAEA," a senior European diplomat said.  

U.S. Opposes European Plan To Censure Iran Over Nuclear Work | The Wall Street Journal 

The Biden administration is pressing European allies to back off plans to rebuke Iran for advances in its nuclear program as it seeks to keep tensions with Tehran from escalating before the autumn’s U.S. presidential election, according to diplomats involved in discussions. The U.S. is arguing against an effort by Britain and France to censure Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s member state board in early June, the diplomats said. The U.S. has pressed a number of other countries to abstain in a censure vote, saying that is what Washington will do, they said.  

SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS 

EU Eyes Sanctioning Iran’s Defense Minister Over Drone Shipments | Bloomberg 

The European Union is discussing imposing sanctions on Iranian Defense Minister Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani, according to people familiar with the matter. The listing is part of a potential package that would hit Iran for providing military support to groups in the Middle East and the Red Sea, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations. The sanctions would further expand earlier restrictions the EU has imposed on Tehran for supplying Russia with drones to also include missiles and drones that Iran has provided to its proxies in the region. That shift was agreed last month after Iran attacked Israel. The package under consideration, which could be approved by the end of the month, includes a total of nine individuals and entities, the people said. EU sanctions require the backing of all member states to be adopted and could change before then.  

TERRORISM & EXTREMISM 

Yemen’s Houthis Say They Attacked Three Ships, Two US Destroyers | Al Arabiya 

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia said on Monday it launched attacks on three ships in the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, and two US destroyers in the Red Sea. The group, which describes its attacks as acts of solidarity with Palestinians in Israel’s war in Gaza, said the ships were the Larego Desert and the MSC Mechela in the Indian Ocean, and the Minerva Lisa in the Red Sea. It did not name the destroyers. There was no immediate confirmation from shipping companies or the US military of any attacks in those areas. The Houthis’ military spokesperson, Yahya Saree, did not specify when the attacks took place, but said in a televised speech the group had used missiles against the ships and drones against the US destroyers. The group has launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea region since November, later expanding to the Indian Ocean.  

Nikki Haley Blames Iran, Russia, China For Hamas Attack | Iran International 

The former US Ambassador to the United Nations Iran, Russia and China for their alleged roles in orchestrating the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. During a visit to Israeli communities devastated by the attack at the remnants of the destroyed Sderot police station, Nikki Haley cautioned that similar attacks could potentially occur on American soil if vigilance wanes. "If we are arrogant enough,” such an attack “could absolutely happen in America too," she stated. Haley blamed the coordination of the October 7 attack on Iran, claiming it was assisted by Russian intelligence and financed by Chinese funds. Hamas’s attack on October 7 “was orchestrated by Iran. It was helped with Russian intelligence. And it was fueled by money from China. Don’t deny that,” Haley asserted.  

PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS 

Director Who Fled Iran Brings A Movie And A Message Of Hope To Cannes | New York Times 

While shooting his new film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” the director Mohammad Rasoulof learned that he was facing eight years in prison for making movies that criticize Iran’s hard-line government. So Rasoulof fled Iran, made his way to Germany, and then arrived in France this past week for the Cannes Film Festival. After “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” premiered in competition at the festival to strong reviews on Friday night, Rasoulof promised to continue making films that shine a light on the situation in his country. “The Islamic Republic has taken the Iranian people hostage,” he said at a news conference on Saturday. “It’s very important, then, to talk about this indoctrination.”  

Iran Jails Father Of Young Man Executed Over Protests | AFP 

Mashallah Karami was sentenced to six years in prison by a Revolutionary Court in the Tehran satellite city of Karaj on charges of illegally organising gatherings and collecting donations, his lawyer Ali Sharifzadeh Ardakani said on X, adding that the verdict had "flaws" and would be appealed. The accused's son Mohammad Mehdi Karami was executed in January 2023 over the killing of a paramilitary two months earlier at the height of protests sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for an alleged breach of Iran's mandatory dress code for women. Mashallah Karami had posted videos on social media pleading for his son's life to be spared. When his pleas fell on deaf ears and his son was executed, he posted footage of the grave and of relatives and other supporters in mourning. He was arrested in August 2023 and has remained in custody.  

LGBTQ+ Activists Slam Western Governments Condolences For Iran's President | Iran International 

In an open letter, LGBTQ+ activists and organizations voiced their strong disapproval of Western governments that expressed condolence to Iran honoring President Ebrahim Raisi, who died last weekend in a helicopter crash along with other officials. The activists condemned the action as an "insult to those who rose chanting Woman Life Freedom to overthrow the Islamic Republic." They emphasize that such gestures of sympathy are a betrayal to the Iranian people, particularly women and the LGBTQ+ community, who have been fighting against the Islamic Republic's brutal policies. “Raisi's role in the execution and killing of homosexuals and queers who were unjustly killed by the judicial system of the Islamic Republic cannot be hidden,” the letter read.  

IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS 

Crowds For Raisi Show Support For Iranian State, Supreme Leader Says | New York Times 

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Saturday that the large crowds of mourners who took to the streets of Iranian cities this past week to honor the country’s deceased president, Ebrahim Raisi, were proof of widespread popular support for the Islamic Republic and its system of religious governance. Ayatollah Khamenei had declared five days of mourning after Mr. Raisi, 63, was killed in a helicopter crash along with Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and five others last weekend. Video from the Iranian news media in recent days showed large processions in honor of the dead, and crowds packed in to listen outside the University of Tehran on loudspeakers as Mr. Khamenei led the funeral service for Mr. Raisi on Wednesday.  

Iran Presidential Election: Up To 20 Possible Contenders Gear Up For Battle | The Guardian 

The end of official mourning for Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi has unleashed a battle for succession in which as many as 20 credible names have been proposed. All candidates have to be cleared by the 12-strong elite body known as the Guardian Council, and the regime is torn between ensuring continuity on the one hand and on the other, allowing an open competition that stimulates turnout and gives the victor legitimacy. The election on 28 June, triggered by Raisi’s death in a helicopter accident last Sunday, has the potential to expose political divisions within the regime, something that the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will seek to avoid in the search for predictability and stability. Although the elections are about personalities, backroom deals and relationship to the supreme leader, ideology plays a role.  

Hard-Liner Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf Re-Elected As Speaker Of Iran’s Parliament | Associated Press 

Iran’s parliament re-elected hard-liner Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf on Tuesday as its speaker, reaffirming its hard-right makeup in the wake of a helicopter crash that killed the country’s president and foreign minister. Of 287 lawmakers voting, 198 backed Qalibaf to retain the position he first took in 2021. He initially became speaker following a string of failed presidential bids and 12 years as the leader of Iran’s capital city, in which he built onto Tehran’s subway and supported the construction of modern high-rises. Many, however, know Qalibaf for his support, as a Revolutionary Guard general, for a violent crackdown on Iranian university students in 1999. He also reportedly ordered live gunfire to be used against Iranian students in 2003 while serving as the country’s police chief.  

CONGRESS & IRAN 

GOP Lawmaker Warns Iran Must Be Stopped, Israel Is ‘One-Bomb Country’ | The Hill 

Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) said Iran must be stopped from obtaining even one nuclear warhead because Israel is a “one-bomb country.” Southerland was making the case for why the United States must stand by Israel amid escalating tensions with Iran and worries about that country’s nuclear program. Many U.S. lawmakers believe Iran’s nuclear ambitions are aimed at building a bomb that could be used against Israel. “I would have to say to (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad that we will support our ally,” Southerland said in an interview with Florida political website The Shark Tank. “I’ve stood on the West Bank, I’ve looked to my right and looked to my left — it is, for all intents and purposes, a one-bomb country,” Southerland said. Southerland dismissed the notion that Iran’s nuclear ambitions were energy-related, as the country maintains, and said Ahmadinejad was not merely posturing in his frequent threats against the Israelis.  

RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN 

Mounting Hezbollah Drone Attacks Raise Alarm In Northern Israel | The National 

Hezbollah’s drone strikes on northern Israel have tripled in three months with the weapons posing an increasingly serious threat to the area’s security, The National can disclose. There is growing evidence that the Iran-backed Lebanese militia is now able to penetrate Israeli airspace with ease and conduct lethal strikes on military targets. Former Israeli military intelligence officers also expressed concern that Hezbollah was constructing tunnels to give them the option of armed raids on settlements close to the Lebanon border. In a report passed to The National, the number of drone incursions into Israel has gone from 23 in March to 42 in April to 60 in just the first three weeks of May. “We demand our government eliminate Hezbollah’s capabilities,” said retired military intelligence lieutenant colonel Sarit Zehavi, who lives 20km from the border and has had to shelter her young family from several attacks.  

Sudan’s Army Deepens Ties With Russia, Iran As Civil War Rages | Bloomberg 

Sudan’s army said it’s poised to get weapons from Russia in return for letting Moscow establish a military fueling station on the Red Sea coast, a blow for the US as its opponents gain influence in the African country torn apart by civil war. A military delegation will travel to Russia from Sunday within a few days to conclude the deal, assistant commander-in-chief Yasser Al-Atta told the Gulf-based Al-Hadath TV channel on Saturday. Authorities will get “vital weapons and munitions,” he said, describing the planned Russian outpost as “not exactly a military base.”  

Hezbollah Barrages Deal Heavy Damage In Northern Israel | AFP
 

Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been exchanging near-daily cross-border fire with the Israeli army since Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack triggered war in Gaza. The Iran-backed militants have launched thousands of rockets, mortar rounds, anti-tank missiles and attack drones at northern Israel. The exchanges of fire have killed at least 11 civilians and 14 soldiers in Israel, according to the army. At least 429 people have been killed in Lebanon, mostly militants but also including at least 82 civilians, according to an AFP tally. The barrages have dealt a heavy blow to Israeli towns and villages near the border which have been evacuated for more than six months. They have also served as a warning of the far greater destruction that would be wrought by a full-blown war.  

TURKEY & IRAN 

How Raisi’s Death Will Impact Turkey-Iran Geopolitical Rivalry | Al-Monitor 

Turkey’s declaring a national mourning day and its praise for Iran's late President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian will not paper over the many geopolitical tensions between the two countries. Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian died on May 19 when their helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of the East Azerbaijan province in northwestern Iran. Upon Tehran’s request, Ankara sent its Akinci drone and identified the crash site, enabling Iranian rescue workers to reach the wreckage on the morning of May 20. Later that day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised his late Iranian counterpart at a press conference and announced a day of mourning “in order to share the profound grief carried by the people of Iran.” Raisi’s death brought to the surface Turkish skepticism toward Iran. Some Turks brought up the Iranian president’s unflattering nicknames such as “butcher of Tehran” and “hanging judge,” which he was given for his role in the execution of several thousand regime opponents in 1988.  

OTHER FOREIGN AFFAIRS 

Raisi's Death Unlikely To Rattle Iran's Foreign, Domestic Politics | Al-Monitor 

The Islamic Republic of Iran is no stranger to political upheaval, but in its 45-year history the political establishment has managed to keep a steady course and adjust to new realities and it will weather the readjustment process started by the helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other officials. The delegation was on a helicopter traveling from the border region between Iran and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Raisi and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, had inaugurated a dam in the East Azerbaijan province in Iran. While conspiracy theories of a potential assassination have been floated among the Iranian public, there are no indications of a wider agenda and it is quite likely that it was an accident with political consequences. It would be a mistake to view Raisi’s sudden death as a major disruption to the political dynamics in Iran. Rather, the Islamic Republic will go through an adjustment process without massive political shifts. Focusing on realities and not conspiracy theories, what will that process mean for the country’s domestic politics, regional relations and foreign policy?  

Four Hurt, One Arrested In Clashes Between Iran Govt. Supporters And Opponents In UK | Al Arabiya  

British police say four people were hurt and one was arrested when supporters of Iran’s authorities clashed with anti-government protesters at a London event marking the death of President Ebrahim Raisi. The Metropolitan Police force said officers were called Friday evening to “reports of disorder” at a venue in the west London area of Wembley, where an event was being held to mark Raisi’s death in a helicopter crash. Protesters had gathered outside the venue and clashes broke out, police said. The force said one person was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder. Four people were treated by paramedics for injuries that are not thought to be life-threatening or life-changing.  Police ordered those gathered to disperse and said Saturday that detectives would examine social media footage and other evidence to see whether more offenses had been committed.  

MISCELLANEOUS 

Michigan Islamic Center Honors 'Butcher Of Tehran,' Other Iranian 'Martyrs' Killed In Helicopter Crash | Fox News 

A Michigan Islamic center held a memorial Thursday for Iranian leaders, including one known as "the Butcher of Tehran," who were killed in a helicopter crash last weekend, a move that came amid other tributes that sparked anger given Iran's ties to global terrorism. The Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights posted a flyer to its Facebook page saying it was standing in solidarity with the people of Iran and advocates of "peace and justice globally" to honor Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi; Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian; Malek Rahmati, the governor-general of East Azerbaijan province in Iran; and Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Al-Hashem, an Iranian jurist, who all died Sunday, as well as a cleric who died separately. Raisi, Amirabdollahian, Al-Hashem and Rahmati were killed after the helicopter they were in crashed in the Dizmar Forest in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. They were returning to Tehran after traveling to Iran’s border with Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev.