Iran’s political structure can still ensure country’s normal functioning despite helicopter ‘hard landing’ incident, said Chinese experts

global times​​​

    Whilst cause of the incident of "hard landing" of the helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi remains unknown, Chinese experts said dense fog may be the culprit, yet they believed the thorny domestic and international situation Iran faces currently also gives room for theories of "foul play." However, Iran's political structure can still ensure the country's normal function despite the incident, preventing it from descending into chaos, observers said.

    Raisi and Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian along with others who have been onboard the helicopter have died, multiple Iranian news agencies have confirmed.

    Rescuers on Monday found a helicopter that was carrying President Raisi, the foreign minister and other officials had apparently crashed in the mountainous northwest reaches of Iran the day before, though "no sign of life" was detected, state media reported earlier.

    As the sun rose Monday, rescuers saw the helicopter from a distance of some 2 kilometers, the head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir Hossein Kolivand, told state media. He did not elaborate and the officials had been missing at that point by over 12 hours.

    Raisi was traveling in Iran's East Azerbaijan province. State TV said what it called a "hard landing" happened near Jolfa, a city on the border with the nation of Azerbaijan, some 600 kilometers northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

    Footage released by the IRNA early Monday showed what the agency described as the crash site, across a steep valley in a green mountain range. Soldiers speaking in the local Azeri language said: "There it is, we found it."

    Shortly after, state TV in an on-screen scrolling text said: "There is no sign of life from people on board." It did not elaborate, but the semiofficial Tasnim news agency showed rescuers using a small drone to fly over the site, with them speaking among themselves saying the same thing.

    China is deeply concerned over the "hard landing" of the helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and hopes President Raisi and the others aboard are safe and unharmed, a spokesperson from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday, noting that China is closely following the situation and will provide all necessary support and assistance to the Iranian rescue effort.

    Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed appreciation to numerous nations and international organizations for their support during the search and rescue operation after the helicopter incident, CNN reported.

    "The Islamic Republic of Iran sincerely thanks the numerous governments, nations, and international organizations for their expressions of human emotion and solidarity with the government and people of Iran, as well as their offers of help and assistance for the search and rescue operation," it quoted a statement from the ministry as saying.

    Leaders from many countries including Iraq, Pakistan, India expressed their support. Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the European Union also offered to provide support to the rescue operations in posts on X.

    "It is hard to determine cause of the incident. On the face of it, heavy fog seems like the direct cause," Liu Zhongmin, a professor from the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times.

    However, Liu pointed out that the incident left room for suspicion of "foul play" given the thorny situation Iran faces currently, such as its escalating conflict with Israel, assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

    Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in comments aired on state TV that there were several helicopters yet only Raisi's helicopter was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog.

    "Weather conditions are more likely to be the cause. But the accident looks strange considering Iran's long-term confrontation with the West and Israel, and the accident occurred amid Iran dealing with frequent security incidents lately. However, this does not necessarily mean that the event was orchestrated by enemies of Iran," said Liu.

    Following the incident, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in an address on state TV that "There will be no disruption in the country's operation…Senior officials are doing their work and I have advised them on the necessary points and all of the country's operation will carry on smoothly and orderly."

    First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber already had begun receiving calls from officials and foreign governments in Raisi's absence, state media reported.

    Iran's political system, with Ayatollah Khamenei leading the political landscape and with the constitutional procedures in place in the event of absence of the president, ensures that Iran is unlikely to experience the kind of political instability seen in some developing countries where the political system is not robust. The likelihood of the country descending into political turmoil due to incident is relatively small, Liu noted.

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