There are several theories as to what may have led to the chopper crash that killed Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in the mountainous terrain near Azerbaijan.

From humorous "conspiracy theories" about an alleged Israeli Mossad agent named "Eli Kopter" planning the crash, to the more plausible theory of inclement weather, there is no shortage of speculation.

According to Iran experts, one narrative emerging from Iranian regime insiders seems to play over and over again like a broken record: blame the US.

Iran's former foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was part of the administration responsible for the shooting down of Ukraine International airlines PS752 in January 2020, said the US sanctions on Iranian aviation were one of the main factors behind the crash.

In a phone interview with state TV on Monday, Zarif said the sanctions prevent Iran from having good aviation facilities.

"One of the culprits behind yesterday’s tragedy is the United States, because of its sanctions that bar Iran from procuring essential aviation parts," said Zarif during the interview.

Hossein Mousavian, a controversial Princeton University academic, who is being investigating by the US Congress for his pro-Iran regime activities echoed Zarif's sentiments on the platform X.

Patrick Clawson, a Research Counselor at The Washington Institute said he's not surprised regime loyalists would blame the US.

"It certainly fits with Iranian style, right? I've seen. Iranians are prone to believe in conspiracy theories, personal life, business life, and political life," said Clawson.

Clawson said since the year 2000, there have been at 20 deadly crashes in Iran, killing more than 1700 people, and that figure is not including the shooting down of PS752.

"Out of those 20 crashes. Well, eight of them were US made planes. And nine of them Russian made planes or planes with license to the Russians. And three of them European planes. So there weren't any sanctions on the Russian?

"20 crashes ...give me a break, folks. Your aircraft safety record is just dreadful," Clawson told Iran International.

Blaming US sanctions, he said, is a joke.

"Who the heck takes off in a helicopter, which is a hard thing to fly in in foggy weather and rain and night approaching with the president on board? Give me a break," he added.

Defense and security analyst Farzin Nadimi, a Senior Fellow with the Washington Institute, specializing in Iranian military affairs, said "this is a clear case of choice. To fly or not to fly."

Nadimi said "they chose to fly on US made helicopter that was built 30 or 40 years ago. Yes that was their choice."

While he acknowledges that the helicopter was under US sanctions, and that Iran would likely have to get spare parts using methods that are not recommended by the original manufacturer, he also said they had Russian made helicopters at their disposal.

"They shouldn't have any problems with that," said Nadimi referring to the Russian made helicopters.

The crash, he said, is the responsibility of the Iranian government, not the country that sanctioned them.

Senior fellow with the Atlantic Council and curator of The Iranist newsletter Holly Dagres said the onus is on the Islamic Republic.

"The upper echelons of the clerical establishment are always looking to find a way to blame the United States and Israel for their failings and mishaps. In this latest iteration, former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is blaming US sanctions on why the helicopter crashed when it was flying in adverse weather conditions," said Dagres.

Dagres, an Iranian-American, said this has more to do with Islamic Republic's mismanagement than it does with US sanctions.

"This is just another classic example of the Islamic Republic’s systemic mismanagement. Who decided to put the Iranian president and foreign minister on a helicopter without visibility due to dense fog?, " said Dagres.

She said the Iranian regime has no issues investing in drones and missiles even in the face of crippling sanctions.

"It’s well-known that the Islamic Republic has an outdated air fleet that uses parts purchased on the black market due to US sanctions. But this is the same government that believes in a “resistance economy” and prides itself on domestically made drones and missiles, which begs the question of why it hasn’t invested in aviation," said Dagres.

Could Zarif's messaging be an attempt to impress Iran's Supreme leader Ali Khamenei in a time of political turmoil?

Dagres said "Zarif talks like he wants to run for president."

The helicopter in question was a US Bell chopper made in the 1970s and purchased by Iran during the monarchy. The government confiscated it from an oil company in the 1980s and used it for official business, probably without making sure that it had the necessary parts to keep it in a safe flying condition.

The Islamic government also has close ties with Russia and China and could have acquired newer helicopters with a steady stream of spare parts.

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