By Pooya Stone
“We will take revenge, harsh, strong, regrettable, firm, and finisher…” the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Hossein Salami said in Kerman on January 7. A little later, 176 people were slain in Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752.
Unfortunately, “no passenger was rescued” as Salami was saying. Hamid, Mehdi, Puneh, Iman, Arash, Mohammad, Milad, and dozens of senior experts, minors, and teenagers were sacrificed in the IRGC’s missile attacks in retaliation of Qassem Soleimani’s death.
According to reliable reports, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei previously informed Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and several ambassadors of foreign countries about the time and place of “retaliatory” operation. Therefore, Khamenei himself leaked the information of this publicity stunt in fear of the possible consequences of killing Americans. However, despite informing foreigners and the military forces of “the Great Satan” about the attack, Iranian officials didn’t cancel flights in Iran. In this regard, the Ukrainian airliner was shot down by the IRGC air defense system only two minutes after taking flight.
On January 8, around 6 am local time, the world was shocked by the news of a passenger airplane crash near Tehran and the death of 176 innocent people. However, Khamenei did not speak about this tragedy in his lecture regarding the dead terrorist Qassem Soleimani.
A few hours later, former IRGC commander-in-chief Mohsen Rezaei appeared in the state-run T.V. Channel 3 and congratulated IRGC’s missile attack. “I extend my congratulation for taking harsh revenge to the Leadership [Khamenei] and the novel nation who ‘suffered’ from Soleimani’s [death]. This operation was, in fact, the bombardment of both the authority and prestige of the United States,” Rezaei said in his interview with channel 3. However, he never mentioned the innocents who lost their lives a few hours earlier in the airplane crash.
Thus, it seems officials are rather taking their revenge on the ordinary people of Iran like laborers, teachers, students, drivers, and flight passengers. The Iranian government responds to the Great Satan by bombing Iraq’s deserts while they targeted the barehanded Iranian protesters with live ammunition directly in the head and chest. No American was harmed in IRGC’s showoff while at least 1,500 innocent people were butchered in Iran’s streets in the two days of protests that shook the country in November.
Anyway, the Iranian government’s harsh response despite heavy propaganda resulted in no casualties, but its anti-aircraft system targeted a Ukrainian civil airliner and left many families mourning. However, officials ironically and before finding the black box announced that the Ukrainian civil jetliner crashed due to technical defects. While an expert examination would lengthen at least a few days, Tehran immediately tried to veil the truth and escape from the consequences of this horrible event.
“It’s impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane… How can a plane being hit by rocket or missile [and then the pilot] try to turn back to the airport?” ISNA News Agency quoted Iran’s head of civil aviation Ali Abedzadeh as saying.
The International Reactions Toward the Crash of the Ukrainian civil Jetliner
The secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council Oleksiy Danilov acknowledged that Kyiv was investigating whether Iran shot down the civilian airliner using a Russian-made missile. “A rocket strike, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main working theories since there is information on the internet about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash,” Danilov said.
On January 9, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a press conference announced, “Intelligence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.” He emphasized in an address that intelligence from "multiple sources" indicates that the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed on Tuesday was shot down by Iran’s anti-aircraft system.
The UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab agreed with the Canadian assessment and criticized Iranian officials’ rejection of sending a black box for investigations. “The Iranian regime must open up to the international community, including access to the crash site, so we can get to the truth as quickly as possible to give the families of the victims an understanding of what happened to their loved ones… The families of the victims deserve to know the truth, and we say that whether they're Canadian families, British families, Ukrainian families, Swedish, German, Afghan," Mr. Raab said.
Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, said there was “a body of information that the flight was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.”
“We are working closely with Canada and our international partners and there now needs to be a full, transparent investigation,” he added.
However, the Iranian government was eventually forced to admit that the IRGC anti-aircraft unintentionally targeted the jetliner. Iran state TV on Saturday cited a military statement as saying that the country “unintentionally” fired a missile at a Ukrainian jetliner because of “human error.”
In this regard, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, “This morning brings the truth.” He tweeted, “Ukraine insists on a full admission of guilt. We expect Iran to bring those responsible to justice, return the bodies, pay compensation and issue an official apology. The investigation must be full, open and continue without delays or obstacles.”
This morning brings the truth.— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 11, 2020
Ukraine insists on a full admission of guilt. We expect Iran to bring those responsible to justice, return the bodies, pay compensation and issue an official apology. The investigation must be full, open & continue without delays or obstacles.
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, previously expressed her condolences with the victims’ families. After the government’s admission to shooting down the civilian jetliner, she pointed out to the public wrath against the ayatollahs’ lies. Mrs. Rajavi also slammed the Iranian regime for the publicity stunt over the IRGC’s attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and underlined that the ayatollahs didn’t issue any advance notice and cancel passenger flights while the country was conducting a military operation.
“Regime’s forced admission to shooting down the Ukrainian airliner that killed all the passengers is another great crime, which the Iranian people will neither forgive nor forget the Ukrainian Plane. The regime had given advance warning about its missile attack on American bases to the Iraqi government and its military and through them to the US. But did not issue any advance notice to our compatriots and did not cancel passenger flights,” Mrs. Rajavi tweeted.
The regime had given advance warning about its missile attack on American bases to the Iraqi government & its military & through them to the US. But did not issue any advance notice to our compatriots & did not cancel passenger flights #Iran— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) January 11, 2020
The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani claimed, “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.” He tried to evade consequences and head the condemnations toward the IRGC. “Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably, missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane and death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake,” Rouhani tweeted on January 11.
Iran's Background in Concealing the Crimes
The fact is Iranian officials under pressure admitted to shooting down the jetliner. However, the Iranian regime still refrains from clarifying several issues. For instance, around two months ago, security services have massacred more than 1,500 people to quash nationwide protests that were primarily ignited by an unprecedented hike of the gas prices. They cut off the people’s access to the internet to deter the revelation of the scope of their crimes. However, the Iranian opposition, relying on its credible sources, initially announced that the government had killed more than 1,500 innocent demonstrations. Later, U.S. officials and Reuters confirmed the death toll with different sources inside the country. Nonetheless, Iranian authorities yet avoid informing the people about the real number of murdered people, wounded, and detainees.
31 years ago, Iranian authorities massacred dozens of thousands of political prisoners in the country. The oppressive apparatus has never informed the victims’ families about the fate of their loved ones. The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), to whom most of the victims were affiliated, estimated the number of victims to be over 30,000. Human rights organizations time and again called upon Iranian authorities to specify the fate of disappeared political prisoners during the summer of 1988. However, Tehran still denies informing the Iranian people about what happened at the time.
Now, after the Iranian government was finally compelled to admit to its role in shooting down the Ukrainian civil airplane and killing of 176 innocent people, it is important that the international community follows this venue to hold Tehran accountable for inhuman crimes committed previously, including killing more than 1,500 protesters in the last November, massacre of political prisoners in 1988, etc.