US says it could not provide aid to Iran after Ibrahim Raisi’s helicopter crash, ‘mostly for logistical reasons’

As Washington expressed its condolences over the death of President Ibrahim Raisi, the United States said on Monday it could not accept Iran’s request for help over the weekend helicopter crash, mostly for logistical reasons, Reuters writes.

Varsakhan, northwest Iran, where the helicopter carrying Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi crashed, May 20, 2024. Photo: Azin HAGHIGHI / AFP / Profimedia

The rare request by Iran, which considers the US and Israel as its main enemies, was revealed during a State Department press conference.

“The Iranian government has asked us for help. We made it clear to them that we would provide assistance as we would respond to any request by a foreign government in this type of situation,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

“Ultimately, mostly due to logistical reasons, we were unable to provide that assistance,” Miller said without elaborating.

The charred wreckage of the helicopter that crashed Sunday, carrying Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amiraptolahian and six passengers and crew, was found Monday morning after a difficult overnight search in extreme weather.

Iran has yet to provide an official explanation for the crash of a US-made Bell 212 helicopter in a mountainous area near the border with Azerbaijan.

Asked if he was worried that Tehran might blame Washington, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said: “The United States had no role in this accident.”

“We are continuing to monitor the situation, but we have no insight into the cause of the accident,” Austin added, as quoted by Reuters and AFP.

The plane crash comes at a time when internal conflicts in Iran have been compounded by a series of political, social and economic crises. Iran’s clerical leaders face international pressure over Tehran’s nuclear program and deepening military ties with Russia amid the war in Ukraine.

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Austin, however, dismissed US concerns that the crash could have immediate security implications in the Middle East.

“I don’t necessarily see a broad, regional impact on security at this point,” he said.

According to the Islamic Republic’s constitution, a new presidential election must be held within 50 days. Also, AFP reported that officials have decided to hold presidential elections on June 28

Suzanne Maloney, a researcher at the Brookings Institution think tank specializing in Iran-related matters, explained that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian security services will try to avoid any sense of vulnerability during the transition.

“So I expect a fearful and reactive Iran that is more risk-averse in the short term but, paradoxically, more dangerous if it feels on the defensive,” Maloney said.

Erdogan has decreed a day of national mourning in Turkey

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared Monday a national day of mourning following the death of Ibrahim Raisi.

“During the government meeting, we decided to declare a national day of mourning in our country to share the deep pain that the Iranian people have experienced,” the president announced in a televised address from Ankara.

“We again convey our condolences to our Iranian brothers,” Erdogan said, adding that “we pray for God’s mercy on my dear colleague and brother” on Monday.

Turkish Transport Minister Abdulkadir Uraloglu said the helicopter carrying Iran’s president had no “signaling system” or was not working when the plane crashed on Sunday.

“We determined that either the helicopter’s signal system was broken or there was no signal system (on the plane),” the Turkish minister told reporters, according to Agerpres.

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Ankara, which sent an Akinci drone to the crash site on Sunday evening, said on Monday its device made it possible to locate the wreckage of the helicopter carrying President Raisi, which was found early Monday in northwestern Iran.

President Erdogan, who often prides himself on the development of Turkey’s defense sector, welcomed the “active role” played by a Turkish drone in locating the helicopter wreck on Monday evening.

Iranian officials also announced on Monday that President Raisi’s funeral will be held in Tehran on Wednesday.

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