July 20, 2024

From the start, the official explanation has focused on ‘technical failure’ and the hazards of low visibility weather.

A preliminary report produced by Iran’s military has found no evidence of criminal activity or foreign interference in last Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed the late President Ebrahim Raisi and seven others, according to state media.

The report was produced by the general staff of the armed forces, and it states Raisi’s helicopter “caught fire after hitting an elevated area” and found no traces of “bullet holes” on the helicopter among the wreckage.

The aircraft had been flying on a “pre-planned route and did not leave the designated flight path” before the crash into the side of a mountain, official IRNA news agency reports.

“No suspicious content was observed during the communications between the watch tower and the flight crew,” the findings concluded. The final radio communications between the presidential helicopter and two others flying nearby occurred one-and-half minutes before the crash.

The “complexity of the area, fog and low temperature” had also hindered the search and rescue efforts, which took hours. The site had been located with the help of an advanced drone sent by Turkey’s military which has thermal imaging capabilities.

Initially, when news first hit international press reports that Raisi was ‘missing’ – Iranian state media reported the incident as a mere “hard landing” and strongly suggested that at least some aboard survived. However, as hours passed and conflicting information emerged, Iran’s Supreme Leader made statements preparing the population for the worst, telling them to “pray”. 

Almost immediately as news broke of the crash Sunday, the question was raised: was Israel or another foreign enemy of Tehran behind this? As if anticipating this, and given the volatility of the Mideast region at this tense moment, Israeli officials issued statements rejecting any suggestion of its involvement.

This was the first question on the minds of many when news of the helicopter downing broke…

Helicopter carrying Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has crashed.

Israel?????????? pic.twitter.com/SeNoHlRbqR

— Prayag (@theprayagtiwari) May 19, 2024

Additionally and perhaps most importantly Iran itself had never alleged any act of sabotage. From the start, the official explanation has focused on ‘technical failure’ and the hazards of low visibility weather.

With other big incidents or assassinations (for example of Iranian nuclear scientists), Tehran officials haven’t been shy about pointing to foreign intelligence like Israel’s Mossad or the CIA. So if there was any evidence of a foreign plot, it is likely Tehran would have alleged it by now.

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