UPDATE (January 11): On January 11, the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces issued a statement saying that the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 (Flight PS752) had been shot down as a result of the human error “at a time of crisis caused by US adventurism.” At the time of the incident, Iranian forces were on the highest alert. The plane flown close to a sensetive military site.
The statement added that those responsible for shooting down the plane would “immediately” be brought before military justice. It said that “by pursuing fundamental reforms in operational processes at the armed forces’ level, we will make it impossible to repeat such errors.”
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offered Iran’s “profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”
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On the morning of January 8th, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 (Flight PS752) bound for Kiev crashed just minutes after taking off from the Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital. The incident happened near Parand, a suburb southwest of Tehran. All 176 people on board – 167 passengers and 9 crewmembers – died. While the plane belonged to the Ukrainian airline, most of the passengers were Iranians or Canadians. The incident happened less than 3 hours after Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps conducted a missile strike on US-operated military bases in Iraq.
According to Iranian authorities, a technical malfunction was the main reason behind the crash. An initial probe found the aircraft had experienced a problem as it was leaving the airport zone. The plane caught fire three minutes into the flight at an altitude of 2,400m (8,000ft). (A fire broke out in one of its engines) The plane, which was initially headed west, turned back to the airport immediately the problem arose. Then, the plane crashed into the ground. No distress calls were made. This is the main version of the crash.
On the evening of January 9th, a large-scale media diplomatic campaign started suggesting that Flight PS752 may have been accidentally shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.
The theory is that Iran accidentally launched a surface-to-air missile that hit Flight PS752. This version is most unlikely because it suggests the launch of a single missile at an allegedly unclear target in the vicinity of the capital’s airport where there is continual movement of passenger liners. Even if we ignore the isolated missile launch, the questions remain: At what kind of a supposed hostile target could the Iranians be aiming? How could a single hostile plane the size of a Boeing 737-800 have been imagined near Tehran, far from any site of a possible US attack? How might this kind of a singular hostile target have appeared near the capital unnoticed?
This version is based on claims by anonymous sources – sources which allegedly exist but must remain secret – , “spy satellite images” and social media-based speculations. These include
1. Speculations about ‘unexplained holes’ on photos showing the wreckage of the plane:
2. Two unverified images allegedly taken near the crash site supposedly showing part of a Tor M-1 missile. Iran indeed has Tor low to medium altitude, short-range surface-to-air missile systems obtained from Russia. But it remains unclear how the supposed missile part might have appeared next to the crash site if the missile hit the plane in midair and thus became the cause of the fire:
3. A video allegedly showing the missile hit, and supposedly filmed in a residential area in Parand. If the video is authentic and it really shows the missile hit, the question is how this person could have known when and what to film? Some reports tried to explain this with a ‘there were 2 missiles version’. This is hardly possible. There are clear videos showing how the burning plane was falling. If it had been hit by 2 missiles, then it is extremely likely that it would have come apart midair.
The supposed missile hit:
The plane is in fire:
#BREAKING: It is now known that the Flight PS752 of #Ukraine International Airlines exploded mid-air before impacting ground in #Shahriar, near #Tehran, #Iran. Cause of the explosion of this Boeing 737-8KV with UR-PSR register is unknown.This video shows it moments before crash? pic.twitter.com/b1n6TVBccD
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) January 8, 2020
If one theoretically accepts the missile version as probable, it would be reasonable to suggest that the aforementioned ‘missile hit’ video was filmed with advance knowledge of the event.
Iran is the side that has a direct interest in avoiding any such tragedies on its soil. However, there is another side involved – the United States. In this case, the possible reasons for the crash could include:
- A missile strike with a man-portable air-defense system in the hands of US-linked operatives or US proxies. The location of the incident close to the airport zone and the altitude of the plane make this feasible;
- Or a special operation by US forces to carry out a missile strike from the ground. For example, this may have included the capturing of an Iranian missile launcher.
It is also interesting to address the timeframe of the events. When the tragedy happened, the technical malfunction theory was widely accepted by all sides. It took the US-led ‘international community’ almost two days to start spinning the narrative. There are two possible explanations for this:
- The United States strongly advised its ‘partners’ to promote the version blaming Iran regardless of the real reason for the crash. This media and diplomatic hysteria is needed to justify further pressure on Iran, to set the ground for possible aggressive actions and to draw the international and internal audience’s attention away from the fact that the United States for the first time since World War 2 did not give a military answer to a direct missile or bombing attack on its military bases by a state actor;
- The Flight PS752 operation had been prepared as part of the campaign to justify military aggression against Iran. However, when Washington did not want to risk providing a military answer to the Iranian missile strike, the operation was put on hold. Two days later, when the reaction of the internal and international audience to the absence of any real answer to the Iranian missile strike became obvious, the Flight PS752 incident became a part of the campaign to compensate for the US setbacks on the international scene.
In any case, the tragedy of January 8 has already become a part of the US-led campaign to discredit Iran and to increase media and diplomatic pressure on it.