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Global Times

Plane tragedy weighs on Iran

Global Times

By GT staff reporters Source:Global Times Published: 2020/1/12 22:53:40

Tehran urged to hold those responsible to account The unintentional downing of a Ukraine aircraft by Iran has put the Middle Eastern country under tremendous pressure not only domestically but also globally.

There was no excuse for the tragedy and Iran must take responsibility and punish those accountable for downing the jetliner, Chinese analysts said.

Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the aerospace commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, said Saturday that the corps accepted responsibility for the crash.

A missile operator mistook the plane for a cruise missile as there had been reports that such missiles had been fired at Iran, according to BBC.

"He had 10 seconds to decide. He could have decided to strike or not to strike and under such circumstances he took the wrong decision," Hajizadeh said.

Angry Iranians took to the streets of Tehran Saturday night after the Iranian authority admitted the terrible "human error" that caused the loss of 176 lives, and protesters chanted for the resignation of the country's leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Guardian reported.

In a "flagrant violation of international law" according to the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the British Ambassador to Iran Rob Macaire was detained during an anti-government protest, media reports said.

The Iranian news agency Tasnim said on Sunday that Macaire had been arrested for "involvement in provoking some radical acts among protesters. He was freed a few hours later but will be summoned tomorrow for further explanations."

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quoted as saying in a Reuters report that Canada would "not rest until we get the accountability, justice, and closure that the families deserve."

Mounting pressure

Iran is now facing tremendous domestic and external pressures, although its authority and officials have vowed to hold accountable those responsible for the mistake.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted earlier on Saturday that "Armed Forces' internal investigation has concluded regrettably that missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane that killed 176 innocent people."

"The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake," Rouhani wrote. "Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake."

Iran pledged to hand over those responsible for the tragedy to the country's military court.

The Iranian Armed Forces Staff assured the nation it would make any re-occurrence of such an incident impossible by fundamentally modifying operational processes of the Armed Forces and that it would hand over the culprits to the military court, the Tehran-based Mehr News Agency reported on Saturday.

The Western world and Iranian anti-government forces wanted to use the plane issue to pressure the Iranian government, hold more anti-government events and further split the government from the people, seeking to subvert Iranian authority, Chinese analysts said.

"Their final goal is to overturn the Iranian government," said Li Guofu, a research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing. "But I don't think they could succeed this time."

The Iranian government and military have apologized and promised to pay compensation and ascertain where the responsibility lies, Li explained.

They had done all that they could, leaving no excuse for the Western media to hype, he asserted.

According to an investigation report released by the Iran Armed Forces on Saturday, the mistake happened after threats "made by the American President [Donald Trump] and its military commanders to attack 52 targets on the soil of the Islamic Republic in the case of Iran's retaliation. Due to the unprecedented movements in the region's airspace, Iranian Armed Forces were thrust to an utmost level of readiness and alert."

Hours after the retaliatory Iran missile strikes against US military bases in Iraq, the "aircraft presence of US terrorist forces" increased near Iranian borders and some targets were seen on radars, which triggered the air defense, the report said.

"In such sensitive and critical situations, flight No.752 of Ukraine International Airlines departed from Imam Khomeini Airport and while changing direction, it completely resembled a hostile target approaching a sensitive center of IRGC," the report continued.

As a result, the plane was wrongly targeted and shot down, it said.

Capabilities questioned

While a civilian aircraft is significantly different from a missile in terms of radar cross-section and optic characteristics, it needs to be manually distinguished after it is caught by an air defense system, military observers said. The operator failed in this task.

Neither the air defense system nor the operator seemed to have referred to tracking information for civilian aircraft, which should be openly available.

The operator was also obliged to make contact and get verification, but failed due to communications disruptions, Hajizadeh said.

While some Chinese military observers said the operator was left with no choice but to gamble and shoot the suspected missile down to prevent a potential US attack, others said all these mistakes reflected the Iranian military's poor equipment capabilities and incompetent personnel.

"Iran ought to shoulder the responsibility for this tragic accident. However, several underlying factors leading to the tumultuous situation in the Middle East are also to blame," Niu Xinchun, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing, told the Global Times on Saturday.

It was wrong to assume Iran would shoot down the plane for political reasons, Niu noted.

The US should also take a certain part of the responsibility for the issue as it was continuous extreme US pressure and Trump's recent military deterrence against Iran that had put the country on high alert and led to the tragedy, according to Li Guofu.

As Iran has now accepted its ultimate responsibility, the relatives of the passengers may demand compensation directly from Iran, which must be huge, analysts noted.

"Compensation of $145,000 for each person, an amount set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, is sought under normal circumstances. In this particular case, the amount should be higher," Wang Ya'nan, chief editor of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, told the Global Times on Saturday.

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