In a first, Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei names Sunni navy commander
Iran has named a Sunni Muslim as a senior commander within its military for the first time.
Shahram Irani was made navy admiral by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Republic's supreme leader and military chief, Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.
According to an order issued by the ayatollah, Irani was appointed to the role because of his "commitment and good record", plus the endorsement of Mohammad Bagheri, the military's chief of staff.
Irani, who is from Kurdistan province's capital city, Sanandaj, where a significant number of Sunnis live, now has the top rank in the country's naval system.
State media and social media channels in the Shia Muslim theocracy also highlighted the development, according to Saber Golanbari, a correspondent for The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site, Al Araby Al-Jadeed.
The 54-year-old's appointment was hailed by a Sunni parliamentary bloc in a letter of "thanks" to the Ayatollah, Golanbari said.
The lawmakers expressed hopes that the country would employ more Sunnis and other minorities to senior roles in the state.
Minister of Culture Abbas Salahi alluded to the move on Twitter, saying Iran had "broken the shackles of leadership in Iran".
Salahi, a Shia scholar, said the admiral's appointment was a "good omen for the makeup of sects" in the Islamic Republic's government.
Meanwhile, Khamenei stressed that "serious and worthy efforts" will be needed to progress the country's military.
He highlighted the importance of making the military stronger and more ready to respond.
Irani has held important roles in Iran's navy since 1987, with leadership posts in the Bandar Abbas area and stints as second-in-command of training for both the army and navy.
He has led significant operations for the Islamic Republic's navy, such as the 2011 maneuvering of military vessels to the Mediterranean via Egypt's Suez Canal.
He has also presided over multiple rescue efforts in the Gulf, and, as a student, attended the Imam Khomeini University of Marine Sciences.
Iran navy is testing new cruise missiles in the #Gulf of Oman' https://t.co/R7Z5IxfUQ9 pic.twitter.com/lDJThegaC5— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) June 19, 2020
Irani is taking over from Hossein Khanzadi, who became admiral in 2017.
His predecessor's time in charge has seen multiple incidents, and at minimum three Iranian ships have sunk in the Middle East's waters.
There was not, however, any explanation as to why Irani was taking over, according to the Associated Press.
These include the extensively reported loss of the Islamic Republic's Kharg vessel, which happened two months ago after it went up in flames in the Gulf of Oman.
The military boat was Tehran's biggest and had been in use for over three decades.