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Iran admission of guilt after shooting down of Ukrainian Airliner: January 12, 2020

Posted by bohdan.warchomij in : Metaphor Online, New York Times , trackback

KYIV, Ukraine — Iran’s stunning admission that its forces errantly downed a Ukrainian jetliner — reversing three days of denial — did little to quell growing fury inside the country and beyond on Saturday as the deadly tragedy turned into a volatile political crisis for Tehran’s leaders and overshadowed their struggle with the United States.

Ukrainian officials criticized Iran’s conduct, suggesting that the Iranians would not have admitted responsibility if investigators from Ukraine had not found evidence of a missile strike in the wreckage of the crash, which killed all 176 people aboard.

Protests erupted in Tehran and other Iranian cities as dumbfounded citizens found a new reason to mistrust Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and other officials. Protest videos even showed some shouting “Khamenei is a murderer!” and anti-riot police tear-gassing violent demonstrators.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in his first reaction to Iran’s announcement, said his country would “insist on a full admission of guilt” by Tehran. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, home to many of those aboard the destroyed jetliner, demanded a “full and complete investigation” and said “Iran must take full responsibility.” Both spoke by phone with Mr. Rouhani.

Contradictions and miscues complicated Iran’s message even as it took responsibility. Iran’s military, in its initial admission early Saturday, said the flight’s crew had taken a sharp, unexpected turn that brought it near a sensitive military base — an assertion that was immediately disputed by the Ukrainians.

Within Iran, as citizens vented anger toward their government, officials offered a mix of contrition and an insistence that Iran was not solely to blame. Mr. Rouhani called the error an “unforgivable mistake.” General Hajizadeh, whose forces were responsible, said he had wished death upon himself because of the blunder.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote in an apology posted on Twitter: “Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster.”

Some protest images posted on Iranian social media even showed torn photos of General Suleimani.

“Death to liars!” and “Death to the dictator!” shouted Iranians gathered in squares in the capital Tehran, videos shared on social media showed. “You have no shame!” shouted several young men, and the crowd joined in a chorus.

In another tense spillover from the protests, the Iranian authorities briefly seized Britain’s Tehran ambassador, Rob Macaire, for what news accounts in Iran called his “involvement in provoking suspicious acts” at a protest. Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, denounced the seizure as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Many protesters carried candles and placed flowers at the gates of the universities and other public places in Tehran. Conservatives and supporters of the government accused the authorities of having intentionally misled the public about what had brought down the plane. Its passengers included many young Iranians on their way to Canada for graduate study.

The criticism of Iran over the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737-800, now threatens to eclipse whatever international sympathy Iran has garnered in its escalating confrontation with the Trump administration, which has faced widespread criticism over stoking a violent confrontation with Iran’s leaders.

For three days after the crash, Iranian officials not only denied their military forces were responsible but blamed what they called the aircraft’s mechanical problems and said suggestions of Iranian culpability were American propaganda. Satellite surveillance and video clips of the plane strongly suggested Iran’s own air defense missile system blasted the plane out of the sky.

The Iranians reversed themselves early Saturday.

The newly critical language by Ukrainian officials in the aftermath of Iran’s admission stood in sharp contrast to more cautious statements in recent days. It partly reflected the frustrations in a country that had been thrust in the middle of the conflict between the United States and Iran.

Mr. Danilov, the Ukrainian security official, said Iran had been forced into conceding its military had brought down the jet because the evidence of a missile strike had become overwhelmingly clear to international investigators.

He said Ukrainian experts on the ground in Iran had gathered such evidence since their arrival on Thursday despite apparent Iranian efforts to complicate the investigation, including by sweeping debris into piles rather than carefully documenting it.

“When a catastrophe happens, everything is supposed to stay in its place,” he said. “Every element is described, every element is photographed, every element is fixed in terms of its location and coordinates. To our great regret, this was not done.”

Mr. Zelensky’s office posted on Facebook photos of plane wreckage and a Canadian man’s passport showing small piercings — consistent with the hypothesis that shrapnel from a surface-to-air missile hit the plane.

“We expect Iran to assure its readiness for a full and open investigation, to bring those responsible to justice, to return the bodies of the victims, to pay compensation, and to make official apologies through diplomatic channels,” Mr. Zelensky said in a post on his Facebook page. “We hope that the investigation will continue without artificial delays and obstacles.”

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