Tehran names first Sunni commander as head of Iranian Navy

For the first time in Iran, a Sunni commander, Shahram Irani, was appointed as admiral, the highest rank in the navy.

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On Tuesday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is also the commander-in-chief of the Iranian armed forces, issued a decision naming Shahram Irani as the new head of Iran’s navy.

According to the decree issued by the Supreme Leader, Irani was appointed due to his “commitment and good record” alongside a recommendation from the Chief of Armed Forces, General Mohammad Bagheri.

Stressing the importance of “serious and worthy efforts” to benefit from all capacities with the aim of taking the armed forces further, the Supreme Leader emphasized “upgrading power and preparations.”

Irani became the first Sunni high-ranking military commander in the Iranian armed forces. Irani comes from the northwestern province of Sanandaj, which is mostly populated by Sunnis.

Iran’s new admiral graduated from Imam Khomeini University of Marine Sciences. Since 1987, he has served at senior positions in the navy. The chief of operations of the 1st naval zone of the army (Bandar Abbas), the chief of staff and deputy commander in Bandar Abbas region, the deputy chief of naval training, and deputy chief of army training are among positions that Irani has held.

Additionally, Irani oversaw significant naval missions, such as the sailing of Iranian warships through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea in 2011 and many Persian Gulf naval rescue operations.

Shahram Irani will replace Hossein Khanzadi, who has held the position since 2017. During Khanzadi’s term, at least three ships reportedly sank in regional waters.

The most and most striking one among those was the incident of the IRIS Kharg, Iran’s largest naval vessel, in June. Operating since 1977, the IRIS Kharg burst into flames off the port of Jask in the Gulf of Oman during a training mission, before sinking.

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