Iran possibly shot down Ukrainian plane, believe US and allies
On Wednesday, a Ukrainian airliner went down shortly after taking off from Tehran, killing all 176 people on-board. And now, in what qualifies as a fresh twist to the tragic accident, the United States and its allies believe an Iranian missile shot the passenger aircraft, albeit by mistake. Though Iran has refuted these assertions, it has invited adversary US to participate in the investigation.
Context: Iran attacked Iraqi bases. Shortly, Ukrainian plane crashed
The Boeing 737 aircraft, belonging to Ukraine International Airlines, crashed en route Kyiv from Imam Khomeini International Airport. It caught flames and landed on a farm, with debris scattered everywhere. Just before the crash, Iran attacked two Iraqi bases, which housed US forces. The Islamic nation struck soldiers to avenge the death of its top commander Qasem Soleimani, whom the US killed in an airstrike.
US officials told media about their suspicions
The timing of the crash and attack led to experts framing conspiracy theories. Some of their fears found validation when unnamed US officials told American media that Iran may have shot down the plane. US intelligence sources told CBS News a satellite caught "infrared blips of two missile launches", which was followed by a blip of an explosion. President Donald Trump concurred too.
Someone may have made a mistake, said Trump
Trump didn't say anything explicitly but strongly hinted towards it. "I have my suspicions. It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood and somebody could have made a mistake," the US President said. Videos from site further confirmed this theory. CNN said a missile was fired in Tehran sky and it struck an object. US believes two Russian made SA-15 surface-to-air missiles were used.
Something very terrible happened: Trump
"It was flying in a pretty rough neighbourhood"— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) January 9, 2020
US President Donald Trump says he "has his suspicions" about what happened to the Ukrainian plane that crashed near Tehran, after US officials say Iran may have mistakenly shot it downhttps://t.co/MNwEcG5C10 pic.twitter.com/N6hKjLUK67
Like Trump, Trudeau also pointed finger at Iran
Another fact which lent more ground to US suspicions was the large field of debris. Planes that usually go down due to mechanical failures have narrower debris fields. The tragic incident also killed 63 Canadians, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seeking answers. On Thursday, he said several intelligence sources indicated at Iran's involvement. "We know this may have been unintentional," he added.
Like Canada, Ukraine is also seeking the truth
Trudeau's statement was seconded by his British counterpart, Boris Johnson who claimed a "body of information" confirmed Iranian missile caused the crash. With Western leaders speaking up, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a request on social media urging the US, Canada, and Iran to share information. "We ask all our international partners to assist the investigation and provide any relevant evidence that they may have," his office said.
But Iran is sure the plane wasn't hit by missile
However, Iran has another explanation. The initial investigation report said a radio call was never made and that the pilot was trying to return to the airport when the aircraft caught fire. Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization, asked, "How would the antiaircraft system shoot it? It wasn't a security area." Had a missile hit the plane, it would've exploded, Abedzadeh contended.
No missiles found at site, will conduct probe: Iranian officials
Abedzadeh also claimed dozens of aircraft were flying at an altitude of 25,000 feet when the crash happened. Hassan Rezaifar, head of Iran's Civil Aviation Organization commission for accident investigation, said no missile was found at the crash site. And the spokesperson for the Iranian government, Ali Rabiei, said the country will conduct a transparent, quick, and precise investigation.
Iran is certain the missile theory is a big lie
"Pentagon source who didn't want to reveal their name bombastically reported the news that the Ukrainian plane was hit by two missiles. When in the future it turns out that there is no truth, no one will take responsibility for this big lie," Rabiei added.
Keeping animosity aside, Iran invited US to participate in probe
In a bid to put all doubts to rest, Iran has invited US National Transportation Safety to participate in the probe and the agency has designated a representative for the same. This assumes significance as Iran and the US are on the verge of war after Soleimani's killing. Iran has also notified Canada, Sweden, and Afghanistan, as their citizens died in the accident too.