Ukraine plane crash Iran body bags
© ISNA
Body bags after Ukrainian plane crash outside Tehran. January 8, 2020
Several high-ranking officials have made statements about possible American "disruption of Iran's radar network" and "cyberattacks" that appear to be in preparation of a new official scenario to explain the missile attack on a Ukrainian airliner on January 8.

Ahmad Jannati, the hardliner Chairman of the Guardian Council on Wednesday said the possibility of "enemy sabotage" is being investigated by authorities.

Brigadier General Ali Abdollahi, the Coordinating Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces General Headquarters, on Wednesday said a team has been formed to probe the possibility of an American cyberattack that could have disabled the Iranian radar system.

According to Abdollahi there had been a report about a U.S. cruise missile attack in the wake of Iran's missile launches at two Iraqi bases a few hours earlier on January 8. He claimed that the operator of the missile fired at the plane had difficulty in receiving the message of the command center when the alert about cruise missiles was removed and mistook the plane for an incoming American missile.

Abdollahi also said the possibility of involvement of enemy infiltrators in the air defense system was being probed by the Iranian intelligence bodies and could not be ruled out yet.


Comment: Ukraine Airlines Flight 752: Iran shot it down, but there may be more to the story
What seems to have been a case of bad judgments and human error does, however, include some elements that have yet to be explained. The Iranian missile operator reportedly experienced considerable "jamming" and the planes transponder switched off and stopped transmitting several minutes before the missiles were launched. There were also problems with the communication network of the air defense command, which may have been related.

The electronic jamming coming from an unknown source meant that the air defense system was placed on manual operation, relying on human intervention to launch. The human role meant that an operator had to make a quick judgment in a pressure situation in which he had only moments to react. The shutdown of the transponder, which would have automatically signaled to the operator and Tor electronics that the plane was civilian, instead automatically indicated that it was hostile. The operator, having been particularly briefed on the possibility of incoming American cruise missiles, then fired.

The two missiles that brought the plane down came from a Russian-made system designated SA-15 by NATO and called Tor by the Russians. Its eight missiles are normally mounted on a tracked vehicle. The system includes both radar to detect and track targets as well as an independent launch system, which includes an Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system functionality capable of reading call signs and transponder signals to prevent accidents. Given what happened on that morning in Tehran, it is plausible to assume that something or someone deliberately interfered with both the Iranian air defenses and with the transponder on the airplane, possibly as part of an attempt to create an aviation accident that would be attributed to the Iranian government.

A new video of the crash has now become a challenge to all the explanations offered by military officials so far. The video that was uploaded on YouTube on Tuesday shows two missiles, 30-seconds apart, were fired at the Ukrainian plane. Neither missile immediately downed the plane. The plane is seen ablaze after two missiles hit it, an explosion and then the crash after a short time.

The New York Times has verified the video which could explain why the plane's transponder, disabled by the first missile, stopped transmitting. Iranian officials have tried to argue the plan's transponder did not function, but that most probably happened after the first missile exploded.


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Their claims of firing one missile at the plane "by mistake" are now challenged with the emergence of the new footage.

The new footage appears to be from a security camera on the roof of a building in Bid Kaneh, a village in Malard Rural district, four miles from a military site.

Iran's military admitted shooting down the plane when an earlier video emerged last week, showing a missile flying and hitting the plane. On Thursday, Tasnim News Agency which is close to the Revolutionary Guard reported that the IRGC has arrested the person who took the footage "to probe the factors involved in the incident".

However, UK-based Nariman Gharib who first published the footage on his Twitter on January 14 has refuted the Revolutionary Guard's claim and says he is in contact with the person who sent the video and he is "in a safe place".


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The Iranian Judiciary on Tuesday announced its first arrests over the plane crash incident without naming anyone or saying how many people had been detained.

On Wednesday, in a cabinet meeting President Hassan Rouhani said as someone who had headed Iran's Air Defense for seven years during the war with Iraq (1980-1988) and after that, he could not believe such an error was made. "This error was never made even during the war".

One cannot believe that a passenger plane is struck near an international airport while flying in a [commercial] flight channel," Rouhani who claims he was informed about the downing of the plane two days later, called on the military to be transparent about the meetings before the truth was disclosed on January 11.

On Tuesday, in his first speech after the crash Rouhani called the downing of the Ukrainian passenger plane an "unforgivable error" and said the missile operator, as claimed by IRGC commanders, could not be the sole person responsible for it. "There were others, too," he said and demanded that a special court be appointed to probe the incident.

Hundreds of angry students have been protesting, mainly in university campuses, in several Iranian cities since Saturday and chanted slogans against the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who is the country's Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the Revolutionary Guard and the IRIB, the country's state-run television and radio, for concealing IRGC's responsibility in downing the plane from the public and the government for three days.