After denying any involvement with the crash of a Ukrainian flight, Iran is now admitting responsibility, but insists it was the “disastrous” outcome of an unintentional “human error.”
Rabat – Iran has admitted to unintentionally hitting a Ukrainian passenger airplane, killing 176 passengers including airline staff. But the Islamic Republic is adamant that part of the responsibility for the plane tragedy lies with the US, whose military “adventurism,” Iran says, led to the “human error” from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Iran’s IRNA news outlet has reported that the plane was mistaken for an enemy target as the aircraft turned towards a Revolutionary Guard barracks, a point on the outskirts of Tehran that Iran considers sensitive for its national security.
“The military was at its highest level of readiness,” said the report, referring to the unprecedented US-Iran rift that followed the killing of a top Iranian general in a drone strike ordered by President Trump. “In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit.”
The report added that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards would issue a full apology in the coming hours.
Hassan Rouhani, the president of Iran, said on Twitter: “The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest apologies.”
Javad Zarif, the country’s foreign minister echoed the same sentiments of heartfelt apology, even as he maintained that Washington should take part of the blame for escalating tensions with Tehran, and consequently leading to the mistake that claimed the lives of the 176 people onboard the doomed plane.
“A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by armed forces: A human error at a time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,” Zarif tweeted. “Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.”
In response to Tehran’s admission of responsibility, Canada’s Justin Trudeau said that the focus should be on “closure, accountability, transparency and justice” for the families that lost their loved ones in the tragedy. There were 57 Canadian citizens on board the plane.
For his part, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Ukraine’s president, said that Tehran’s admission was a step in the right direction. He insisted, however, that Iran needs to do a lot more than simply admitting responsibility, since independent investigations would have regardless led to the conclusion of Iranian responsibility.
“Even before the termination of the International Commission, Iran has pleaded guilty to crashing the Ukrainian plane. But we insist on full admission of guilt,” Zelenskiy said. “We expect from Iran insurances of readiness for full open investigation, bringing those responsible to justice, returning the bodies of the dead, payment of compensation, official apologies through diplomatic channels.”
But Iran’s admission of guilt follows a strong rejection of responsibility hours after the plane was hit as Iran targeted two American military bases in retaliation for the death of General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards who was considered the mastermind of Iran’s Middle East strategy.
“The thing that is clear to us and that we can say with certainty is that this plane was not hit by a missile,” Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization (CAOI) chief Ali Abedzadeh said hours after the plane was hit, as Tehran responded to first accusations that one of its missiles aimed at two American bases in Iraq might have been responsible for the crash.
The plane, a Boeing 737, which had taken off in Tehran and was heading to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members. Passengers included 82 Iranians, 57 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, as well as several other nationalities.
In a move to show its good faith, Iran has invited investigators from Canada, Ukraine, Boeing, as well as any countries that lost nationals in the tragedy, to visit the site of the crash and conduct their own independent investigations.
But the stark contrast between Iran’s earlier stance and its admission of guilt has led a number of experts and concerned observers to argue that Tehran’s admission of guilt is a face-saving move. They say that Tehran decided it was better to admit its “mistake,” especially as full, independent investigations would have revealed the truth that Tehran withheld in the aftermath of the downing of the Ukrainian plane.
“This is the right step for the Iranian government to admit responsibility, and it gives people a step toward closure with admission,” Canadian-Iranian Payman Parseyan, who lost friends in the crash, told the Guardian. “I think the investigation would have disclosed it whether they admitted it or not. They will give them an opportunity to save face.”