Dr. Salem Al Ketbi
Dr. Salem Al KetbiCourtesy:

Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate

The crash of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter warrants extensive contemplation and reflection, given its mysterious circumstances.

This discussion does not aim to uncover evidence or proof supporting either the hypothesis currently maintained by the Iranian regime—that of challenging weather and difficult meteorological conditions—or the theory promoted by some observers suggesting the presence of certain suspicions surrounding the incident.

Such tasks are the purview of investigative authorities and major global intelligence agencies, which (it is to be hoped) have a vested interest in uncovering the truth in such significant and influential incidents (but not necessariy sharing it). The incident, by its very nature, raises questions.

The issue here does not revolve around the helicopter’s capabilities, its outdatedness, or other factors that sometimes bear responsibility, as Iran’s stockpile of outdated and dilapidated equipment is increasing due to the impact of international sanctions.

This particular issue is not closely tied to that concern, as there exists the possibility of purchasing helicopters from China, Russia, and other countries.

Moreover, it’s unlikely that the president and his assistants would have risked boarding an aircraft while knowing in advance that it was in danger of crashing in weather conditions that were widely known, either from weather data or during the outbound flight.

What strikes me most—as an observer—about this incident is that Iran immediately turned to explain it within the framework of weather conditions in a definitive manner, despite the fact that two helicopters, which were part of the presidential air fleet participating in the inauguration of the Giz Galasi Dam on the Iranian-Azerbaijani border, successfully arrived in Tabriz, while only the third, which was the Iranian president’s aircraft, crashed.

All official statements seemed to be in harmony about attributing the cause to weather conditions, and they completely and categorically distanced themselves from raising any conspiracy theory or casting doubt on the existence of a targeted attack on the presidential helicopter. What is most striking here is that this approach is not typical of the Iranian regime and its leaders.

Ordinarily, every small and large event that happens in Iran is always, without hesitation or discussion, blamed on “enemies,” usually referring to Israel and the US. The “enemies” were conspicuously and suspiciously absent from Iranian political thinking this time, a matter that raises questions in itself.

This is despite the fact that suspicions had been ignited abroad, with Israel immediately rushing to deny any connection to the incident. Meanwhile, Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vulin, who headed the Security and Intelligence Agency, commented on the incident, asserting that the leaders of the free world were in danger.

Vulin was further quoted as saying that he had no doubt that Iranian intelligence services, which he regarded as among the best in the world, would uncover what had happened to the Iranian president.

However, he added that following the attempted assassination of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and the disappearance of President Raisi, it was very difficult to dispel the impression that it was indeed the leaders of the free world who were in danger. He concluded by stating that in the world they live in, freedom is punished.

Upon examining the incident, we find three possible scenarios or hypotheses:

First, adverse weather conditions;

Second, maintenance issues and aircraft deterioration; and

Third, the existence of a plot or a premeditated act.

In truth, the first two reasons cannot be ruled out, as they are highly probable.

This is especially so given that Iran’s air transport sector has witnessed several accidents over the past decade. These include numerous planes veering off runways during takeoff or landing, others crashing after engine fires, some colliding with the summit of the Zagros mountain range in central Iran, as well as accidents involving helicopters carrying Iranian officials.

As for the third hypothesis, it too has an Iranian legacy and cannot be dismissed, even if official investigation results suggest otherwise. The primary hypothesis regarding weather being a factor seems strange and striking.

This is because the weather conditions were not surprising, neither to the concerned security agencies that are supposed to apply protocols to protect the president and high-level leaders, nor to the pilot himself, who held a high military rank in the Iranian army.

Furthermore, experts believe that fog, clouds, and terrain may not significantly affect the path of Raisi’s helicopter, as it is equipped to land even if both engines fail—an unlikely event. In fact, if both engines fail, the aircraft operates in auto-rotation mode and can land safely.

Experts say the only scenario for a certain crash is if the helicopter loses both of its blades, causing it to plummet at high speed, leaving no chance for passenger survival—which is approximately what happened.

The loss of both blades has its technical reasons, which in turn raise questions about the causes and what might have happened before the helicopter’s takeoff, as well as its technical condition at that time. There are numerous questions seeking missing answers, and I believe they will remain unanswered.

However, it is evident that the Iranian regime has been extremely keen to avoid raising doubts about the incident from its very onset. This could be out of fear that it might be exploited to create internal chaos, or perhaps due to prior knowledge of what was to come.

The focus has been on absorbing the effects of the crisis, gradually preparing public opinion for the news, emphasizing the causality of weather conditions, and perhaps later searching for the causes of the incident and dealing with it in a manner the regime deems appropriate after organizing the internal scene.

What most fuels the conspiracy theory surrounding the crash of the Iranian president’s helicopter is that the country’s institutions are highly vulnerable in terms of security. Previous events have reflected this vulnerability and its profound level, most notably the assassination of a nuclear scientist by a “killer robot” near Tehran.

Consequently, the hypothesis that Iranian security services, including those responsible for protecting the president himself, have been infiltrated becomes a possibility that cannot be entirely discounted. However, the “calmness” of the Iranian reaction this time raises suspicions about an internal plot orchestrated by factions within the regime.

This is particularly plausible given that Raisi was the most likely candidate to succeed the Supreme Leader. This suggests that the matter is related to a power struggle for positions rather than a conflict over policies, as Raisi was known as the “yes man” and the president most committed to executing Khamenei’s orders without question.