Chinese Media: ‘No Excuse’ for Iran to Shoot Down Ukrainian Plane

Rescue teams work amidst debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, 2020, killing everyone on board. - The Boeing 737 had left Tehran's international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA …
AFP via Getty Images

China’s Global Times state propaganda newspaper took a hard line Sunday against the Iranian Islamic regime, asserting there was “no excuse” for Iran’s military to shoot down a commercial airliner and that the incident underscored the “incompetent personnel” running Iran’s armed forces.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization and formal wing of the Iranian military, took responsibility on Saturday for shooting down Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) Flight 752 last Wednesday amid an Iranian attack on Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops. Iranian military leaders claimed that defense operators mistook the civilian commercial flight for an American missile heading towards the capital; UIA-752 was flying out of Tehran’s international airport.

Iranian officials repeatedly denied claims that the military had shot the plane down before Saturday, stating in a preliminary report that the plane’s engine had spontaneously caught fire and insisting it was “obvious” a missile did not hit it.

China is Iran’s nominal ally and the official statements out of the Chinese Foreign Ministry have not been as critical as those out of state-controlled media. The foreign ministry has yet to offer condolences, however, for IRGC General Qasem Soleimani, whose elimination as a product of a U.S. airstrike triggered the Iranian attack on Iraqi bases that allegedly confused the military into shooting down the plane.

Other Chinese media outlets have cited Chinese “experts” blaming the United States, which conducted no known military activities against Iran that day, for the plane’s demise.

The missile strike killed all 176 passengers on the Ukrainian flight, most of them Iranian citizens. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has demanded “compensation” from Iran for the damage.

“There was no excuse for the tragedy and Iran must take responsibility and punish those accountable for downing the jetliner, Chinese analysts said,” the Global Times reported on Sunday, following Iran’s admission. “Iran is now facing tremendous domestic and external pressures, although its authority and officials have vowed to hold accountable those responsible for the mistake.”

The newspaper noted that Iran’s excuse that the aircraft looked like an incoming missile on radar only explained the killing to a certain extent, as “neither the air defense system nor the operator seemed to have referred to tracking information for civilian aircraft, which should be openly available.”

“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 U.S. attack, others said all these mistakes reflected the Iranian military’s poor equipment capabilities and incompetent personnel,” the Global Times concluded.

It went on to state that one of the Chinese “experts” consulted for the article believed “the U.S. should also take a certain part of the responsibility for the issue.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was the first to blame the United States for Iran’s terrorist military shooting down a civilian aircraft, stating on Saturday that “U.S. adventurism” was responsible, without presenting evidence for the claim.

Despite unjustifiably diverting some of the blame to Washington, the Global Times ultimately referred to an allied nation’s military as “incompetent” and insisted Tehran had “no excuse” for the killing of 176 people, the entirety of the population on board the aircraft. As a Chinese Communist Party entity, the Global Times does not contradict Beijing’s stances on issues.

The newspaper similarly asserted that Iran “must take responsibility” for the deaths on Saturday, shortly after Tehran admitted its role in shooting down the plane. “No reason is acceptable,” the Global Times declared. The Saturday article refuted Iranian claims that America was solely responsible, citing a “military expert” who once again accused the Iranian military of being incompetent and lackluster.

“Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Saturday that the reason behind this tragedy may be because the Iranian military’s readiness is very much strained facing a possible war, and the discipline there was lax,” the newspaper asserted. “Song said that Iran should send relevant officers to the military court and Iran should also explain to the international community what had exactly caused the air tragedy.”

In remarks Monday, his first opportunity to address Iran’s admission, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang did not echo the Global Times‘ berating of Iran for its military “incompetence.”

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic Ukrainian plane crash. We express deepest condolences to the victims and sincere sympathies to the bereaved families,” Geng said. “We have noted relevant parties are in communication regarding this and hope to see a proper settlement to avoid further complication.”

Geng went on to condemn newly issued sanctions from Washington onto Iran, which also affected at least one Chinese company doing business with the Islamic regime and a Chinese ship transferring Iranian steel to China.

“We believe wanton use or threat of sanctions won’t solve any problem,” he asserted. “As to the US sanctions including on Chinese entities, I’d like to point out that for a long time, China and Iran have been conducting mutually-beneficial cooperation in various sectors within the framework of international law. Such cooperation, which is justified and lawful and doesn’t harm any third party’s interests, should be respected and protected.”

Shortly after the U.S. airstrike that eliminated Soleimani – the head of the IRGC Quds Force, Iran’s foreign terrorist force responsible for organizing proxy terrorist groups and attacking American assets and soldiers – the Chinese regime, via Geng’s regular press conference, merely urged the United States to “remain calm” without mentioning Soleimani. Geng condemned the United States for allegedly violating the sovereignty of Iraq, where the airstrike occurred, but not Iran’s in removing a top general from the battlefield.

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