Bestowing the title of “Martyr” to Brigadier-General Rostam Ghasemi, the former economic affairs director of the Quds Force, the expeditionary branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who was the minister of Roads and Urban Development in the administration of President Ebrahim Raisi, has once again brought up the issue of suspicious deaths of a number of other IRGC commanders.
When Ghasemi died in December 2022 at the age of 56, it was simply reported that he had “passed away,” but now he is referred to as a martyr, a title that, in the lexicon of the Islamic Republic, is mostly bestowed on those who are “killed” while performing a service for the government.
During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the deaths of some military commanders, especially senior IRGC commanders, in plane crashes or other accidents, were viewed as suspicious. But the questionable deaths of commanders in recent years have been attributed to various illnesses and this has led some to talk about “biological assassination.”
Among these commanders, the biggest share of suspicious deaths belongs to the commanders of the Quds Force, including Brigadier-Generals Mohammad Hossein-Zadeh Hejazi and Hassan Irlu. Besides dying under suspicious circumstances in December 2021 when he was Islamic Republic’s ambassador to Yemen, Irlu was a mysterious person and some even speculated that he was in fact none other than Brigadier-General Abdolreza Shahlai, the commander of the Yemen Division of the Quds Force who has been designated as a terrorist by the United States; the US State Department has put a $15 million bounty on his head.
Rostam Ghasemi: “He Was Not Sick; He Fell sick”
When Rostam Ghasemi was picked as the minister of Roads and Urban Development, it was rumored that he was suffering from cancer. Ghasemi resigned from his post in November 2021, less than two years after taking office, and died in December of the same year. “They said something about appointing a sick minister,” President Raisi later said. “This minister was not sick; he fell sick! What could we do?”
Ghasemi had claimed that Israel planned to assassinate him but, after his death, there were rumors in Iran that was assassinated by a group known as the “Energy Mafia.”
After he passed away, it was announced he had traveled to China to seek treatment, and the possibility that he may have been treated with Chinese traditional medicine further added to other rumors about his suspicious death.
Hassan Irlu or Abdolreza Shahlai?
After the death of Hassan Irlu, Iran’s ambassador to Yemen, there were rumors that he was the same person as General Abdolreza Shahlai, commander of the Yemen Division of the Quds Force who is on the wanted list of the United States.
Both General Hassan Kazemi, Iran’s special representative to Afghanistan, and the US State Department denied the rumor.
Nevertheless, Hassan Irlu remained a mysterious figure after his death. Little is known about his personal life. Iranian media say he was born in 1959 in the city of Rey in Tehran province. A blurry photo, which for years was the only image of him, was actually a photo of Ghasem Soleimani taken at his mother’s funeral.
Some media outlets have described him as an “anti-aircraft weapons expert” and a training officer for the Lebanese Hezbollah. Media outlets close to the Revolutionary Guards had described him as a “veteran diplomat” and the head of the Yemeni desk at the Foreign Ministry. But all evidence suggests that he was connected with the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards.
The cause of Irlu’s death was announced to have been Covid-19.
Mohammad Hossein Zadeh Hejazi: Various Accounts of His Death
There are different accounts of the 2021 death of Mohammad Hossein-Zadeh Hejazi, who was appointed as the deputy commander of the Quds Force after serving for years as the commander of the paramilitary Basij Organization, an affiliate of the IRGC.
Mohammad Hejazi was a well-known military figure. He featured on the international sanctions list, and the Israeli military has repeatedly cited him as one of the three main people responsible for supplying weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon and setting up missile launchers.
The official cause of his death sparked uproar and speculation.
The office of the Revolutionary Guards Public Relations announced that Hejazi’s death was linked to a heart condition. Shortly afterward, Mohammad Mehdi Hemmat, the son of Mohammad Ebrahim Hemmat, one of the most famous commanders killed in the Iran-Iraq war, contradicted the official account on Twitter. Without providing further explanation, he added the hashtag “Martyr” to his post. The tweet was later deleted.
A day later, IRGC spokesman Ramazan Sharif said Hejazi had died from the chemicals he had been exposed to during the war.
Meanwhile, a cleric announced on state TV: “Hejazi’s illness lasted a total of about 24 hours. He had no history of illness. His heart stopped at once; it was a virus, but not the coronavirus.” The day before, a Guards spokesperson had said that Hejazi had contracted coronavirus a few months before but had recovered.
Mohammad Nazeri: Working with the Quds Force in the Persian Gulf
Brigadier-General Mohammad Nazeri is the founder of IRGC’s Takavar Special Unit who became famous after appearing in the Iranian TV program The Commander. After his death in the spring of 2016, IRGC commanders said that he also worked with the Quds Force.
The official cause of his death was announced to be the “chemical effects” he had been exposed to during the war with Iraq, but this cannot explain his sudden death while he was at sea.
At the same time, Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the IRGC, reported that Nazeri died as the result of a heart attack and used the words “passed away” to report his death, but Fars News Agency, which is also affiliated with the IRGC, called him a “martyr” and wrote that he had died from the “chemical effects” suffered during the war.
Ghodratollah Mansouri “Accidentally Shot Himself”
Brigadier-General Ghodratollah Mansouri, a commander in IRGC’s Ground Forces, was yet another commander whose cause of death in 2016 was the subject of conflicting reports.
The public relations office of IRGC ground forces announced that Mansouri was killed by accident while cleaning his pistol. According to the statement, he died as a result of a shot in the head.
Earlier, the Young Journalists’ Club (YJC), which is connected with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), had reported that Mansouri died “after a long illness,” but the report was removed after the IRGC statement was issued. And a local news website in Mashad reported that the general died in a hospital after an illness, without giving any details.
As a result of these conflicting reports, some Iranians expressed doubt on social media whether his death was in fact an accident.
Vafa Ghaffarian: Death at the Helm of Iran Telecommunication Company
The 2012 death of Vafa Ghaffarian, the chairman of the board of governors of Iran Telecommunication Company and a former IRGC commander, was also suspicious. He was appointed as the chairman of the board after the IRGC took over the Telecommunication Company of Iran. Earlier, he had held positions such as the CEO of Defense Industries Organization and Iran Electronics Industries company.
During five months of the same Iranian calendar year of 1391, a series of IRGC commanders, including five brigadier-generals, died and the cause of the death of some them is still not clear.
The Suspicious Death of Ebrahim Raisi’s Son-in-Law’s Father
The death of Hossein Nili Ahmadabadi, managing director of the Defense Ministry’s Electronics Industries, is also viewed as suspicious. Reportedly, he was killed while on a mission in 1989.
During the presidency of Ali Khamenei and the premiership of Mir Hossein Mousavi in the 1980s, he was Minister of Mining and Metals for one term but did not get enough votes in the parliament for a second term.
Reportedly, Meghdad Nili, Raisi’s son-in-law, is the son of Hossein Nili but he and his brother Meysam have seldom spoken about their father.
Suspicious Plane Crashes
Besides the deaths of individual commanders of the IRGC, the crashes of a number of planes carrying IRGC officers have been viewed as suspicious as well, including an Iranian Air Force C-130 aircraft in 1981 and the plane carrying Brigadier-General Ahmad Kazemi, commander of IRGC Ground Forces in January 2006.
In the crash of the Air Force C-130, 80 people were killed, including Defense Minister Mousa Namjoo, Chief-of-Staff of the Army Valiollah Fallahi and the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohammad Jahanara. No official explanation was given for reasons of the crash, and one source said it was the result of a “technical fault.” In a speech following the incident, then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said the opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization was behind the deaths without providing any evidence.
General Kazemi’s plane carrying 11 other IRGC commanders went down near Urmia in northwestern Iran. Again, sources reported the crash differently.
It was the second time in five weeks a military plane had crashed in Iran while attempting an emergency landing. IRGC spokesman General Masoud Jazayeri told state radio that both of the plane’s engines failed, its landing gear jammed and there was snow and poor visibility at the time. Some pointed out that this cannot be accurate because the plane had not caught fire and the bodies that had been retrieved from the wreckage showed no signs of burns.
Meanwhile, Fars News Agency quoted a senior IRGC commander as saying that the plane crashed because it had run out of fuel.
Others speculated that Israel brought down the plane but, like the assassination of Ardeshir Hosseinpour, a nuclear scientist and university professor, the Islamic Republic preferred to keep silent about it. Fars News Agency quoted an “informed official” as saying that Hosseinpour was not involved in Iran’s nuclear program.
“I have not investigated the case of the crash of Marty Kazemi, but evidence shows that what happened was a deliberate action and a former commander of the IRGC was involved in it,” Abbas Palizdar, former chairman of the parliament’s Committee, said in a speech.
There are cases in which military plane crashes have been called suspicious, including when the aircraft carrying Iranian Air Force Commander Brigadier-General Mansour Sattari, four generals and seven other officers and that of Air Force Brigadier-General Abbas Babaei went down in 1995 and 1987, respectively. However, these suspicious deaths mainly affected IRGC commanders, especially those of its Quds Force.
These unresolved causes of death have sometimes caused outlandish speculations. After Quds Force commander General Ghasem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad International Airport in January 2020, a group of opponents of President Hassan Rouhani accused his government of providing the United States with information that made the assassination possible.
Rouhani’s supporters quoted the general himself as saying that the United States had the necessary information about him to assassinate him outside of Iran if it decided to do so.
Source » iranwire