Iran Confirms Downing of Ukrainian Flight
Iran confirmed Saturday what most of the world already speculated to be true – it accidentally shot down a civilian aircraft, killing all 176 passengers. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard said as much in a rare television broadcast and Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, also offered the same message.
“I wished I were dead,” Hajizadeh said, taking responsibility for the human error that led to Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 (Flight No. PS752).
Rouhani added, “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences.”
Admittance and Apology
The admittance came after a video was uploaded by Sky News, which reportedly recorded the moment a missile struck the craft. Iranian authorities initially denied involvement in the attack as officials from both Tehran and Kyiv hurried to explain what happened. Earlier reports, including from the Ukrainian embassy in Iran, cited an engine failure as the reason for the crash, however the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, is a historically safe model.
Since its introduction in 1998, the Aviation Safety Network recorded only six prior accidents with more than one fatality. According to the ASN, none of those events were caused by mechanical failure and human error was attributed to all of them.
The accidental downing of PS752 came at a time when Iran could not afford an international mishap. Onboard were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, 3 UK citizens, and 3 Germans, according to Canadian-based CBC.
For a Moment, There was Piece
The immediate affect, and also the most difficult for Tehran to overcome, is wasting of goodwill it had built up during its reaction after the US killed its top general, Qassim Suleimani. After US President Donald Trump decided to assassinate Suleimani, Iran could have responded with a proprotional attack, but instead it lobbed missiles at a US base in Iraq, missiles that did not kill or wound any American soldiers.
Both Trump and Rouhani agreed to put the hostilities behind them and work toward peace as the international community breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was commendable for both parties, even if the situation was manifested by Trump and unwarranted.
For a brief moment in time, the world had reason to appreciate efforts made by Tehran to ensure peace. Although Trump announced he would levy more sanctions on Tehran, the fact is that very few products and officials were not already under some sort of sanction already. If sanctions were the worst to come from the debacle, it would seem far from the predictions of World War Three.
That changed with the downing of the Ukrainian flight. Canada – and the world – have demanded answers. Rouhani pledged the investigation, still in its infancy, would be carried out, possibly with help from Russia, Canada, France, or Ukraine. Such an undertaking could take 1 to 2 years, as is normal after such an event.
Rouhani’s Job on the Line
Domestically, protests against Rouhani’s government have reportedly continued after pausing for the mourning of Suleimani. The Times of Israel posted videos and tweets that were shared on social media following the PS752 accident.
Some Iranians rallied against the dictatorship of Rouhani for a litany of reasons, PS752 included. Others expressed outrage that the tragedy ruined Tehran’s ability to retaliate for Suleimani.
“You took your revenge from Iranians,” Ahmad Batebi tweeted.
Rouhani’s task has grown incalculably more difficult with the downing of the Ukrainian commercial flight. In 2 weeks, he has gone from dealing with the US-Iran crisis and squashing economic-centered protests, to threats of a new war, to defending both his party and position.