An officer from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG) and a member of the Iranian Defense Ministry were pronounced dead after separate events in the line of duty. Sources outside Iran claim that the men were developing weapons for a known terrorist organization.

The IRGC branch at Markazi Province in Iran published a statement, which was later reported by Iranian state media, saying that Ali Kamani died in a “driving accident” during an undisclosed operation. Kamani was a member of the IRGC’s aerospace division based in Khomein, located around 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of the Iranian capital, Tehran.

In a separate incident on Monday, the Fars news agency, which has links with the IRGC, reported that 33-year-old Mohammad Abdous died during a mission in the northern Semnan Province of Iran. Iran’s Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ministry later said the ministry employed Abdous.

The two were branded as “martyrs,” indicating that they were killed rather than dying in an accident.

The IRGC’s aerospace force is responsible for Iran’s ballistic missile development, space program, and some of the country’s air defense projects. Iran has made significant progress in developing its own long-range ballistic missiles, which can threaten distant countries in the Middle East, including Israel. Such progress has been a cause of concern for traditional powers in the region.

Reports of the deaths come as tensions rise over Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which is reportedly closer than ever to weapons-grade standards. Negotiations in Vienna to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have so far shown no success.

Under the agreement, Iran bartered its nuclear development program for relaxed sanctions, particularly on the country’s economy. However, the United States, under former President Donald Trump, withdrew from the deal in 2018 and reinstated the country’s sanctions on Iran. Tehran responded by accelerating its nuclear research, which it claims is limited to civilian means.

Kamani and Abdous’ demise is the latest addition to a streak of mysterious deaths of Iranian aerospace employees over the past weeks. On May 31, Ayoob Enteraz, who reportedly worked for a research and development facility in the city of Yazd, died under suspicious circumstances.

Enteraz, a Ph.D. holder in aerospace engineering, allegedly helped develop military drones and missiles. Circulating reports on his death contradict, with state news claiming that he died in the hospital because of an undisclosed disease, while other sources claimed that he was poisoned.

Engineer Ehsan Ghadbeigi (Jason Brodsky). Source: https://twitter.com/JasonMBrodsky/status/1533034959857917952
Engineer Ehsan Ghadbeigi (Jason Brodsky/Twitter)

Before that, the Iranian defense ministry announced that Ehsan Ghadbeigi had died due to an accident on May 26. Ghadbeigi, an engineer, reportedly perished during an incident at the Parchin military complex near Tehran that also injured an unspecified colleague. Like Kamani and Abdous, he was also branded as a “martyr.”

These deaths also follow the mysterious death of Colonel Ali Esmaelzadeh, who died in his residence in Tehran last week. Esmaelzadeh was reportedly a senior officer of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Force, Unit 840. Iran International claimed Esmaelzadeh was spying for Israel, but we could not verify this claim.

Colonel Sayad Khodaei, a senior officer in Unit 840, was killed by Israeli forces as he was suspected to be involved in terrorist attacks against Israeli, American, and European civilians and government officials.

Links With Hezbollah

In contrast to the Iranian Ministry of Defense reports, a source cited by Saudi-backed Iran International claimed that Kamani and Abdous “were not killed in accidents.”

The two officers indeed died in separate incidents in locations hundreds of miles apart but were not killed because of a car or workplace accident, the source said, who did not provide any further details on the two recent deaths.

Notably, the source revealed that the two played a significant role in developing weapons for Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group that has threatened Israel with a large stockpile of missiles given by Iran.

Hezbollah members and supporters at a parade following the end of Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon (Khamenei.ir,¬†CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Hezbollah is both a political party and a militant organization of Shiite Muslims in Lebanon. It was founded amidst the chaos of the 15-year Lebanese Civil War. Its political organization, coupled with its social service networks and sizable security apparatus, gave the group a reputation of being a state inside a state.

The group’s formation was funded by Iran and the IRCG, who saw the opportunity to expand its influence within the Arabic states. Hezbollah, which means “The Party of God,” has earned a reputation for extremist militancy after frequent confrontations with rival militias and terror attacks on foreign targets.

This included the 1983 suicide bombing of a barracks housing U.S. and French soldiers in Beirut. The attack killed over 300 hundred people.

The U.S. and the EU have designated parts, and sometimes the entire party, as terrorist organizations over the past years. Hezbollah is motivated by its opposition to Israel, its primary rival, and its repulsion to the expansion of Western influence in the Middle East.