Israel fumes as UN’s Security Council, atomic agency mark death of Iran’s Raisi

Both UN entities hold a minute of silence for Iranian president; Israel’s envoy pans gesture to ‘mass murderer’ as akin to show of honor to commemorate Hitler’s death

Footage released by the UN shows the Security Council observing a minute of silence over the death in a helicopter crash of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, May 20, 2024. (UN/Youtube; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israel responded angrily Monday after members of the UN Security Council and the UN’s nuclear watchdog honored the late Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash a day earlier.

Members of the UN Security Council on Monday observed a minute of silence in memory of Raisi and the other Iranian officials in his helicopter, including foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. All those onboard were killed.

Israel’s envoy to the UN called the gesture a “disgrace.”

Mozambique Ambassador Pedro Comissario Afonso, who holds the rotating Security Council presidency, asked members to stand up and remain silent “in remembrance of the loss of life in a crash of the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ebrahim Raisi” and his team.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan lashed out at the Security Council while lamenting what he described as the forum’s inadequate response to the crisis of over 100 Israeli hostages held captive by terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

“You read correctly, the UN Security Council today held a moment’s silence in memory of the mass murdering Iranian president Raisi,” Erdan said in a video statement.

“This body, which makes no effort to free our hostages, tipped their heads today to a man who was responsible for the deaths of thousands in Iran, in Israel, and around the world,” he said.

“What’s next? A minute of silence on the anniversary of Hitler’s death?” Erdan asked, charging that the UN Security Council has become “a danger to world peace.”

International Atomic Energy Authority chief Rafael Grossi also extended his condolences on Raisi’s death and called for a minute of silence during the International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna, according to a post on X.

Grossi’s initiative came just days after he expressed alarm over Iranian officials threat to develop nuclear weapons and lamented their lack of cooperation with UN inspectors.

Grossi was in Tehran for talks about UN access to Iran’s nuclear sites and remaining questions over its development program. He returned from the trip decrying what he called “completely unsatisfactory” cooperation from Tehran.

The Iranian president was confirmed dead on Sunday after search and rescue teams found his crashed helicopter in a fog-shrouded western mountain region in the Islamic Republic.

Israel has not officially commented on the incident, though an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Reuters news agency, “It wasn’t us.” Local politicians reacted with indifference. The US offered condolences to Iran but bashed Raisi’s human rights record.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York on March 25, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

International responses to Raisi’s death became a minefield of diplomatic courtesy strewn with political dangers.

The head of the European Union and its foreign policy chief prompted outrage from some European politicians after expressing their own condolences over the death.

“Our thoughts go to the families,” EU Council President Charles Michel said in a statement on X, while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell offered condolences after “the tragic helicopter crash on Sunday.”

The messages provoked indignation from politicians and elected representatives.

Swedish MEP David Lega asked Borrell on X: “Can you look the brave women and freedom fighters of Iran in the eye ever again? Can you look Floderus’s or Djalali’s families in the eye ever again? I can. Shame on you.”

In 2017, Swede Ahmadreza Djalali was sentenced to death in Iran on espionage charges, which his family says are utterly false. In April 2022, Iran arrested Johan Floderus, a Swede working for the EU’s diplomatic service, as he was returning from a trip to Iran with friends. He faces the death penalty on spying charges.

Rescue team members work at the crash site of a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Varzaghan, in northwestern Iran, on May 20, 2024. (Azin Haghighi/ MOJ News Agency/ AFP)

Belgium’s former migration minister Theo Francken denounced the “European condolences for the death of a butcher and cruel mass murderer,” adding: “You don’t speak in my name.”

The day before, the EU had activated its satellite mapping system to help Iran locate the helicopter.

Janez Lenarcic, the EU Commissioner for Crisis Management, announced on X on Sunday that the system had been activated and received criticism from other European politicians.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, a member of the German Free Democratic Party, said: “What a mockery of the brave fighters for human rights in Iran. I expect an explanation for this.”

Lenarcic said Monday that the act was “simply an expression of the most basic humanity.”

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