Reuters and AP are reporting that an IRGC military plane has crashed, killing General Ahmed Kazemi, the commander of the IRGC's ground forces and former commander of its air force, and what looks like several other senior IRGC commanders. No word yet on whether or not Qassem Suleimani was among them, but I suspect we don't get that lucky.
In addition to the repercussions of General Kazemi's death, notably that this is going to be a lot more short-term power consolidated into the hands of IRGC's commander-in-chief Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi and his deputy General Mohammed Baqir Zolqadr (assuming that neither were on the plane, which I doubt since both are more prominent than Kazemi and would have been mentioned first), which seems to be part of a continuing trend in Iran. One thing I've noticed of late about the regime is that if you compare the frequency and prominence of current and ex-IRGC members in the current government to clerics you'll see that Iran looks less like a theocracy and more and more like a traditional military junta.
Oh, and it's worth noting what the US discovered the last time a plane full of IRGC crashed back in February 2003:
The tough line on Iran contemplated by the United States is partly driven by intelligence reports that Iranian revolutionary guards are sheltering al-Qaeda leaders at one of the former shah's hunting lodges, it has emerged. ... The trail of clues that led to a grand hunting lodge - now a military base - in the eastern highlands near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan surfaced after an air crash in February outside the city of Kerman killed 200 soldiers from the revolutionary guards. A Washington source claimed the crash produced intelligence that the revolutionary guards were "hosting" the al-Qaeda leaders.
Definitely worth keeping an eye on.
The other dead IRGC commanders killed in the crash have been identified as follows:
- Hamid Azinpour, aide to General Kazemi
- Mohsen Asadi, aide to General Kazemi
- Brigadier General Hanif Montazer-Qaem, Director of Intelligence for IRGC ground forces
- Brigadier General Saeed Suleimani, commander of operations for IRGC ground forces
- Brigadier General Gholam-Reza Yazdani, IRGC artillery commander
- Brigadier General Saeed Mohtadi, commander of the 27th (Mohammed) Division
- Colonel Ahmad Elhaminejad
- Colonel Morteza Basiri
Initial reports suggested that Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani was indeed among those killed in the crash, but IRNA is now saying that he wasn't aboard the plane and that the dead Brigadier General was Saeed Suleimani, the commander of operations for the IRGC ground forces. All in all, looks like a major blow to the IRGC.
For those who are curious about Kazemi, he was active in southern Lebanon in the 1980s and helped to orchestrate successful terrorist attacks against US and French troops during that time. Prior to being appointed as the head of the IRGC's ground forces, he was the commander of its aerial assets and supervised the development of Iran's Shahab missiles, including the Shahab-4, which is almost certainly capable of hitting Europe. I expect that all of the other commanders have similar histories, which goes back to my earlier point in the comments that anybody holding a high rank in the IRGC isn't a particularly nice person to begin with.