NewsSpecial WireIran’s top military commanders die in plane crash

Iran’s top military commanders die in plane crash

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Jan. 09 – A dozen senior commanders of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) died in a plane crash in northwest Iran on Monday, a government spokesman announced. Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Jan. 09 – A dozen senior commanders of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) died in a plane crash in northwest Iran on Monday, a government spokesman announced.

A Falcon jet belonging to the IRGC crashed 13 kilometres southeast of Lake Orumieh, killing all 15 passengers on board. They included seven members of the General Command of the IRGC Ground Forces.

The commanders who died in the crash included Brigadier General Ahmad Kazemi, commander of the IRGC Ground Forces and a rising star in Iran’s radical Islamist military, Brigadier General Saeed Mohtadi, commander of the IRGC’s 27 Mohammad Division, Brigadier General Hanif, Director of Intelligence of the IRGC Ground Forces, Brigadier General Soleimani, Director of Operations of the IRGC Ground Forces, and Brigadier General Yazdani, Commander of the IRGC Artillery.

The Revolutionary Guards Corps was founded in the early days of the Islamic revolution in 1979 as an armed force loyal to Iran’s clerical rulers. Its commanders directly report to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and their mission is to “protect and propagate the Islamic revolution”.

Prior to his recent appointment as commander of the IRGC Ground Forces, Kazemi commanded the IRGC Air Force and Missile Forces. He was promoted in the recent reshuffle of the IRGC general command that was ordered by the Supreme Leader and was regarded as a loyal Khamenei supporter.

In a statement released in Tehran, the General Command of the Armed Forces said the IRGC plane crashed at 9:30 am local time near Orumieh Airport. It identified the cause of the crash as the failure of both engines. Earlier reports cited fuel shortage and bad weather as the cause of the crash.

Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised Ahmad Kazemi and other IRGC commanders who were killed in the incident. He said the armed forces “must become symbols of resilience and honour by awaiting the return of the Mahdi [the Shiite messiah”> and obeying the Supreme Leader”.

The top IRGC commanders were on a mission to visit IRGC forces in north-western Iran near the Turkish and Iraqi borders.

The blow to the IRGC comes at a critical time when the force has been given huge powers by the Supreme Leader in the wake of the consolidation of power by the ultra-conservative faction after the election of Ahmadinejad, who is himself a former commander of the IRGC. Hundreds of Revolutionary Guards commanders have been given senior government positions. At least 13 ministers in Ahmadinejad’s cabinet hail from the Revolutionary Guards.

As part of sweeping changes in the IRGC, Khamenei recently appointed a radical Shiite cleric, Ali Saeedi, as his personal representative to the IRGC. Saeedi, who will act as the chief ideological commissar of the Revolutionary Guards, has already reactivated the dormant Political Bureau of the IRGC and has told the Guards’ commanders that the Supreme Leader wants the force to play a much more prominent role in the political arena.

A day ahead of the crash, sources close to the IRGC said in Tehran that further reshuffles in the Guards’ top command were afoot. They mentioned plans to promote Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi as the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the IRGC.

Security forces in Orumieh have sealed off the site of the crash and many military commanders have arrived at the scene, according to eye-witnesses.

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