The Iranian ambassador to Yemen has died of Covid-19, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday. Saeed Khatibzadeh described the death of Hassan Irloo, a former senior member of the IRGC, as a "martyrdom", adding he was an Iran-Iraq war-era chemical weapons survivor.
Irloo was reportedly flown in an Iraqi-owned plane from the Yemeni capital of Sanaa to Tehran on Saturday, December 19. A source working at the airport, who asked not to be named, told IranWire's Arabic team that Irloo was brought to Sanaa Airport in an ambulance surrounded by "tight" security, and confirmed that he left on an Iraqi medical evacuation plane that had arrived on the Saturday afternoon from Basra.
The transfer was said to have been requested by Yemeni Houthi militias, and took place with the consent of Saudi officials, mediated by Iraq and Oman. It came even as Mohammed al-Houthi, a member of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, denounced the fact that a diplomat was allowed to vacate during an ongoing siege of the airport that prevented Yemeni citizens from leaving.
But Irloo was already severely ill by the time of the transfer “due to the late cooperation of some countries”, Iran's Saeed Khatibzadeh said, and did not respond to treatment back in Iran.
Hassan Irloo was smuggled into Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen in October 2020. He was received by Mahdi al-Mashat, then head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, according to a source who spoke to IranWire at the time.
As an ex-IRGC commander affiliated with Lebanese Hezbollah, Irloo's presence was repeatedly protested against by the Yemeni government. He was described by the Minister of Information in Yemen’s legitimate government, Muammar al-Iryani, as “an officer in the IRGC's Quds Force” who could move freely in Houthi-controlled areas. He had been sanctioned by the US for acting on behalf of the IRGC’s Quds Force since December 2020.
Apart from its devastating humanitarian impact on the civilian population, the civil war in Yemen has become a key driver of regional crisis as it is regarded in part as a proxy war between the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia.