Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Iran's VIP plane crash: Sabotage or accident?

Analysis: If dissenting elements within the Iranian establishment have arranged for individuals critical to the country's national security to be removed, thus weakening Ahmadinejad's position, then a serious rift clearly is brewing within the regime.

Stratfor - An Iranian military plane crashed near the northwestern city of Orumiyeh on Jan. 9. Eleven people, including the head of the ground forces of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Kazemi, and several top commanders were killed in the crash. Though Iranian officials are citing bad weather and engine failure as cause for the crash, the incident is peculiar given that Kazemi was the second high-ranking Iranian military official killed in the last 26 days. Regardless of whether foul play actually caused the crash, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's support base has been struck hard.

It is entirely possible that the plane crashed due to technical difficulties, as Iranian officials have publicly claimed. Just a month ago, an Iranian military C-130 transport plane carrying 47 journalists crashed into a 10-story apartment building in Tehran, killing at least 110 people. Iran suffered its deadliest military plane crash in 2003 when a Russian-made military transport Il-76 operated by the IRGC crashed near Iran's border with Pakistan, killing all 302 IRGC members aboard. Before that, the crash of a Ukrainian-made An-140 on Dec. 23, 2003, left 46 scientists dead, a Russian-made Tupolev Tu-154 airliner crashed in February 2002, and a Russian-made Yak-40 crashed in bad weather in May 2001, killing 30 people including Iran's transportation minister.

Iran once possessed one of the most capable air forces in the Middle East. Under the shah, the Imperial Iranian Air Force boasted the most advanced U.S.-made aircraft available, and its personnel received extensive training by U.S. Air Force instructors. After the 1979 Islamic revolution, the United States halted support to Iran's air force and embargoed deliveries of military equipment and spare parts. Shortly after that, Iran's 8-year war with Iraq further strained the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF). The embargo has made the IRIAF's operation difficult, although the Iranians have displayed ingenuity in maintaining their aging equipment with indigenous means. Serviceability, however, remains a problem.

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Source: Iran va Jahan