THE death of Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran, in a helicopter crash, along with other high-profile officials as well as crew and staff, has, indeed, been one of the biggest tragedies to strike the Iranian nation in recent history. While an official inquiry will shed light on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the incident, it is beyond doubt that the disaster would not have occurred had there been no sanctions imposed on Iran by the United States and its allies in the West.

The Iranian air fleet needed upgra- dation or replacement long ago, but that was not possible due to the sanctions that were imposed way back in 1979. The helicopter carrying the Iranian president was more than 40 years old, and was equipped with old-age tracking and communication devices with significant limitations.

The ill-fated helicopter had outdated equipment that sometime suffered from activation failure, high false alarm rate, and limited radar tracking that caused blind spots in tricky zones. Besides, the weather monitor struggled to provide accurate forecast. Had there been no sanctions, the Iranian president would not have been flying in such a machine.

The role of Iranian media houses was extremely professional while covering the high-profile crash. They kept changing the semantics of the incident, from ‘hard landing’ to ‘accident’, and from ‘accident’ to ‘crash’. The key differences lie in the severity of impact, extent of damage, likelihood of injuries, and the recoverability of the aircraft, with hard landings being less severe than crashes that typically involve complete destruction and severe consequences.

As for the conspiracy theories circu- lating on both conventional and social media, one can only hope that they remain just that. Else, one shudders to even imagine what the chaos will be like.

Qamar Bashir
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2024

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