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Saturday 11 January 2020

Ukrainian Airliner - Iran Owns Up

What did I tell you? It was all too obvious from the lack of distress call, the sudden loss of contact, and the size of the debris field that Ukrainian International flight PS-752 from Tehran to Kyiv had not just fallen out of the sky. The aircraft, Boeing 737-800 UR-PSR, was less than four years old and had been well maintained. The crash bore all the hallmarks of a shootdown. The only imponderable was Who Done It.
Almost at once, the people at Bellingcat, led by the determined Eliot Higgins, were on the case. And soon enough they had images of what appeared to be a Russian-built TOR missile; the problem was getting those images geolocated. The bad news for the Iranian authorities, who almost immediately denied any involvement, was that they had TOR missiles, and nobody else in the vicinity of Tehran Airport did.

There was a video apparently showing a missile hitting the aircraft. As Bellingcat told its readers, “The New York Times has contacted the person who filmed the video … and confirmed its authenticity”. Then the key finding. “We have geolocated this video to a residential area in Parand … a suburb to the west of Imam Khomeini International Airport, from which Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 (PS752) departed to Kyiv”.

Thus the pressure on the Iranians increased. And it soon increased further: as the Guardian has reported, “US officials told US media that they had also identified the infrared signature from two suspected missile launches followed shortly afterwards by the infrared blip from the burning and fatally disabled aircraft”. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, whose country lost more than 60 of its citizens in the crash, endorsed that view.

There has been some confusion as to why the nose cone of the TOR missile was found intact, but that is not the part of the weapon that does the damage. As with the Russian BUK missile that downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, the device does not actually impact its target: its warhead, situated behind the nose cone in the TOR, detonates and fragments ahead of the target, with the shrapnel burst doing the real damage.

Ultimately, the Iranians ‘fessed up overnight, and as the BBC has reported, “Iran has admitted ‘unintentionally’ shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people on board. An investigation found that ‘missiles fired due to human error’, President Hassan Rouhani said. He described the crash as an ‘unforgivable mistake’”. Unforgivable in that the 737-800’s transponder identified it as a civilian airliner.

The operators of the TOR missile system would have had that information before they made the decision to loose off two missiles at it, in the false belief that it was a US warplane. But the flight had been delayed for almost an hour, meaning that its departure was, to them, an unexpected event. Also, the Iranian military was on a hair trigger as a result of heightened tensions between that country and the USA.

Even so, if it was unforgivable when the USS Vincennes mistakenly shot down Iran Air flight 655 over the Strait of Hormuz all those years ago, it was unforgivable for the Iranian military to take out Ukrainian International flight PS-752 last week.

Military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. Sadly, that’s not just true in the UK.
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Arnold said...

"But the flight had been delayed for almost an hour, meaning that its departure was, to them, an unexpected event."
Really? Flights are often delayed, so it shouldn't have been a surprise

Anonymous said...

A terrible act, mistaken or not - though in present circumstances I can't believe the Iranians knowingly shot down an innocent civilian flight to hand a propaganda coup to its enemies.

It has echoes of the downing by the Soviets of flight KA007 on 1st September 1983. After which that senile wretch Reagan lied his head off. See fully researched details in Shootdown by R.W.Johnson (Viking Penguin, 1986).

This kind of thing becomes almost inevitable whenever those mad cowboy bastards in the Pentagon instigate one of their imperial wars.

Meanwhile, if the Iranians have any decency and common sense they'll be absolutely transparent about the whole horror and fully compensate the victims families. It's the least they can do.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what victory you're trying to claim here. Nobody thought it was an aircraft accident. It was blinding obvious it wasn't an aircraft accident.

So yeah, you get 3 points for thinking the exact same thing everybody else was thinking. The difference is most people didn't blog about it.

Sam said...

A terrible event that shows the corresponding tragedies that can follow when the world's most powerful nation is in the hands of a clueless bully intent on re-election.

Anonymous said...

@ 00:46.

Strange comment, that.

People blog or don't blog according to their temperament and opinions. Plenty of other blogs have posted opinions on this tragedy. It's their choice.

Just as plenty of other people chose not to comment, as you could have done.

Odd. Very odd.

Zac said...

Interesting to compare and contrast the Iranians admitting and apologising within a few days with the US failing to accept any blame or apologise for 8 years over the USS Vincennes shooting down of an Iranian airliner, and all the while trying to blame Iran for provoking it and claiming self defence, or the complete lack of any clarity, admission, or apology by anyone over the Malaysian airliner destroyed in Ukraine (almost certainly by Russian proxies).