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US Says Iran Sought Help Over Chopper Crash That Killed Ebrahim Raisi

Washington: On Monday, the United States revealed that Iran sought assistance after the helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi. Despite strained relations since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Washington expressed condolences while noting Raisi had “blood on his hands.”

Request for Assistance

The State Department confirmed that Iran reached out for help following the crash on Sunday, which occurred in foggy weather. “We were asked by the Iranian government for assistance,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller stated during a press briefing.

Miller explained that the US was willing to assist, “something that we would do with respect to any government in this situation,” but logistical challenges prevented the provision of aid. He did not detail the nature of the communication but indicated that Iran needed immediate help to locate the helicopter carrying Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and seven others.

Diplomatic Context

The crash happened shortly after the US and Iran reportedly engaged in quiet talks in Oman aimed at improving regional stability amidst ongoing conflicts involving Iran and Israel.

The State Department issued a statement offering “official condolences” for the loss. “As Iran selects a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the statement read.

Raisi’s Controversial Legacy

President Joe Biden’s administration described the condolences as standard protocol, not as an endorsement of Raisi, who had a contentious history. As a judge, Raisi presided over mass executions of political prisoners, and during his presidency, there were severe crackdowns on protests led by women.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby emphasized this point, noting, “This was a man who had a lot of blood on his hands,” and labeling his actions as “atrocious” abuses. Nonetheless, Kirby reiterated the administration’s regret over the loss of life, saying, “as in any other case, we certainly regret in general the loss of life and offered official condolences as appropriate.”

Mixed Reactions

The US condolence message, echoed by European nations, sparked anger among opponents of Iran’s clerical regime, who saw Raisi’s death as a moment of relief. Masih Alinejad, a women’s rights activist and target of a Tehran-engineered assassination plot in New York, criticized the condolence message on X (formerly Twitter), stating, “Your condolences only pour salt on the wounds of the oppressed.”

Security Implications

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remarked that US forces had not adjusted their posture following the crash, highlighting that strategic decisions in Iran remain under the control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “I don’t necessarily see any broader regional security impact,” Austin commented, dismissing any US involvement in the incident.

Austin further suggested the crash could be attributed to various factors like mechanical failure or pilot error. “The United States had no part to play in that crash. That’s a fact, plain and simple,” he asserted.

Investigation and Sanctions

Iran’s military has launched an investigation into the crash. Historically, Iran has often blamed security incidents on the US and Israel, both of which have targeted Iranian interests in recent years.

Former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attributed the crash to US sanctions, which have hindered the sale of aviation parts. Addressing Zarif’s claim, Miller countered, “Ultimately, it’s the Iranian government that is responsible for the decision to fly a 45-year-old helicopter in what was described as poor weather conditions, not any other actor.”

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