Iran’s envoy to Houthis dies of COVID-19

Hasan Irlu airlifted to Tehran last week after contracting COVID19.

Iran’s envoy to Houthis dies of COVID-19

Iran's envoy to the so-called Houthi government in Yemen, Hasan Irlu, who was last week airlifted to the Iranian capital after contracting the COVID-19, died at a Tehran hospital Tuesday morning.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the envoy passed away due to virus complications as he was transferred to the country in a “bad state” and due to “late cooperation” of some countries, in a veiled reference to Saudi Arabia.

Irlu was brought back to Iran on Saturday night and immediately admitted to a hospital in Tehran for medical treatment.

On Monday, Khatibzadeh said the envoy was in need of “immediate medical treatment”, while thanking some regional countries, including Iraq, for helping in his repatriation.

Irlu’s evacuation from war-torn Yemen required clearance from Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in a long-running war with Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen.

A report on Saturday said “direct contact” between Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman had resulted in the safe repatriation of Irlu to Iran.

The report was confirmed by Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam, who tweeted that an understanding between Iran and Saudi Arabia brokered by Iraq had allowed the envoy’s evacuation on health grounds.

A seasoned diplomat and a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Irlu was appointed as Iran’s Ambassador to the Houthi-led government in Yemen in November 2020.

In December 2020, he was sanctioned by former US President Donald Trump in a counterterrorism executive order, describing him as “an official in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).”

The sanctions on Irlu came days after Washington designated Iran’s envoy to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi.

It is not clear yet if the envoy died from the omicron variant of the coronavirus. So far, Iran has reported only one case of the variant.

Hüseyin Demir