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Iran or Turkey: Debate Rages Over Who Found Iranian Helicopter Wreckage


Intense disputes continue as Iranian and Turkish officials debate which nation located President Ebrahim Raisi’s helicopter wreckage, with the Turkish Minister being the latest to weigh in on the issue.

Abdulkadir Uraloglu, Minister of Transport and Infrastructure, told CNN Turk TV that the Turkish drone Akinci found the wreckage, as the time and place of the Iranian-announced discovery corresponds to when and where the drone located it.

A helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi and seven others, including foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian crashed near the border with Azerbaijan on Sunday, killing everyone on board.

Uraloglu said Iranian authorities contacted them for help but did not initially mention that the issue concerned Raisi. The Turkish official said they “successfully did what was asked of” them. “As neighbors, we rushed to help the country that requested assistance, and we did so completely and correctly.”

On Wednesday, the General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces played down the significance of the Turkish drone’s involvement in locating the crash site, emphasizing the effectiveness of its drones instead as the issue became one of humiliation for the regime, currently blamed for a delayed and ineffective response to the crash of its president.

Iran’s military stated that despite Turkey deploying a drone with advanced technology, adverse weather conditions hindered its effectiveness in locating the crash site.

Iran’s own advanced drones were inaccessible in the Indian Ocean at the time but were recalled and ultimately located the crash site where the bodies of the president, foreign minister and other officials were recovered, the Iranian military statement said.

Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also emphasized that the Akinci drone was dispatched at the Iranian government’s behest. Erdogan highlighted the drone’s resilience in adverse weather and detailed its extensive search efforts, which covered 2,100 kilometers over seven and a half hours.

Reports from Turkish media stated that following the Turkish drone’s identification of the helicopter wreckage and heat signatures indicative of the crash site in Iran’s East Azerbaijan Province, Iranian search teams successfully located the downed helicopter and the bodies of Raisi and others in the mountainous area.

Turkish Anadolu news agency also broadcasted a live operation of the Turkish drone which was watched by over 2.5 million people tracking the operational data and flight path live. As it returned to the base, Akinci drew a crescent and a star in the shape of Turkey’s flag.

Despite data from the Turkish drone corroborated by some Iranian news outlets, Pir Hossein Kolivand, head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, dismissed claims of foreign assistance as mere speculation. Kolivand emphasized the Iranian team’s perseverance through challenging conditions, asserting that their drone led them to the exact crash site within 40 minutes of locating the wreckage at an altitude of 2,500 meters.

In a sign of potentially souring relations as a result of the Iranian snub, Turkish media reported on Wednesday that President Erdogan would travel to Iran on Thursday for Raisi’s funeral. However, the Turkish government’s Directorate of Communications Center for Countering Disinformation dismissed these reports, stating that Erdogan has no plans to visit Iran in the near future.

Both Iran and Turkey have a large drone arsenal, a major export for both nations. Iran has been accused by Western powers of providing drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine.

As of mid-2022, Iran has supplied Russia with a substantial number of kamikaze Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which are being used to target civilian infrastructure and cities. Also, drones have been incorporated into large-scale missile attacks, overwhelming Ukrainian air defenses. Turkish drones have also been used by Azerbaijan in the years-long conflict against Armenia, in addition to Ankara’s NATO allies in Europe, Arab countries in the Gulf and North Africa, and sub-Saharan African countries.