Hassan Irloo (L) and an image of Shahlaei issued by the United States. (Iran International)

December 23, 2021

A US State Department spokesperson told Iran International that the deceased Iranian ambassador in Yemen was a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).

“There is no role for the IRGC in Yemen,” the US official stressed, referring to Tehran’s envoy to Yemen Hassan Irloo (Irlou or Irlu) who died of COVID-19 complications this week, according to the Iranian government.

“Iran’s support for armed groups threatens international and regional security, our forces, our diplomatic personnel, and our partners in the region and elsewhere… The Biden administration is committed to countering this threat,” he said.

The Iranian government’s official news agency IRNA had revealed in a Tuesday report on Irloo’s death that “he was also known as General Shahlaei, raising suspicion about his identity and mission in the country.

Later in the evening, however, the agency deleted the reference to Shahlaei – aka Hajj Yusef and Yusuf Abu-al-Karkh — who is an IRGC’s Qods (Quds) Force commander classified by the US government as a terrorist with a $15 million price tag on his head.

When asked if Irloo is the same person as Shahlaei, the spokesperson did not give a clear answer but said that that “the reward for Abdul Reza Shahlaei still stands.”

Hassan Irloo (L) taking notes during a meeting of a Houthi delegation with Ali Khamenei. August 13, 2019

Hassan Irloo (L) taking notes during a meeting of a Houthi delegation with Ali Khamenei. August 13, 2019

On the third of January 2020, the night when the United States killed the head of the Qods Force Qasem Soleimani, the US military attempted to also assassinate Shahlaei via a drone strike. The drone strike in Sana’a, where Shahlaei was based, failed to kill him but did lead to the death of a lower-ranking IRGC member Mohammad Mirza.

According to their published biographies, the dates of birth of Irloo and Shahlaei is 1957, although some sources give slightly differing dates.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ali Khamenei issued a message of condolence Wednesday over Irloo’s death, describing him as an “efficient envoy” with a track record of” political struggle, diplomatic endeavors, and social activism”.

On Thursday, Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Bagheri called Irloo a martyr of the Islamic Revolution who dedicated his life to the resistance axis in the region.

The title shahid (martyr) is usually reserved for those killed in battle and ‘resistance’ is a term the Islamic Republic uses to describe its allies and proxies in the region.

At Irloo’s funeral ceremony Wednesday, deputy commander of the IRGC, Ali Fadavi, also named him as a “fighter in the resistance front” and accused the US and its allies of delaying Irlou’s evacuation from Sanaa and his death.

Even before reportedly catching COVID-19, he was already suffering from respiratory problems sustained in chemical attacks during the Iran-Iraq war.

The Wall Street Journal in a report last week claimed that Houthis had asked Tehran to remove Irloo from Sanaa. Both Iran and the Houthi leadership denied the report, insisting that the ambassador suffered from Covid and needed to receive medical attention in Iran.

Iran International


About Track Persia

Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.