Iran: Parliament Lauds Military for ‘Heartwarming’ Admission They Shot Down Ukrainian Plane

In this Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020 file photo debris at the scene where a Ukrainian plane crashed in Shahedshahr southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran. Two U.S. officials said Thursday that it was “highly likely” that an Iranian anti-aircraft missile downed a Ukrainian jetliner late Tuesday, killing all 176 people …
AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

Iran’s parliament passed a statement of support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, on Sunday for its “heartwarming” admission that one of its members shot down a Ukrainian commercial airliner last week.

The Iranian authoritarian regime admitted last week, after two days of vehement denials and destruction of evidence, that unidentified soldiers had shot down Ukrainian International Airlines (UIA) flight 752 in the early hours of Wednesday as it took off from Tehran with a Russian Tor missile. The shootdown occurred as Iran lobbed over a dozen missiles in the direction of Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops, the regime’s official response to the U.S. airstrike that eliminated IRGC Quds Force chief Qasem Soleimani.

The U.S. army took out Soleimani and the founder of the Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, this month based on reports that they were plotting imminent attacks against Americans. Soleimani had been reportedly operating in Iraq for several months to kill and repress protests against Iran’s attempted colonization of the country.

Despite Iranian military officials insisting for days that it was “obvious” they had not shot down the UIA flight, only to later accept responsibility amid mounting international pressure, Iranian lawmakers applauded the IRGC’s alleged honesty in the matter.

“We, the representatives of people in the parliament, declare our firm support for the IRGC as a revolutionary body and its plans and measures in support of the people and the Islamic Republic,” the statement read, according to Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency. “We do not forget that we are in powerful confrontation with the criminal US and do not allow a mistake by a member of the family to pave the ground for misusing the issue by the enemies.”

Radio Farda, an American government-funded Iranian news outlet, noted also that the statement described bombing the plane as a “family member’s mistake” and applauded the IRGC for admitting its responsibility.

“The IRGC’s admission was deeply heartwarming,” the statement said. The statement also referred to the bombing of Iraqi military bases as “highly praiseworthy.” Baghdad and Tehran are nominal allies.

Joining the regime’s rubber-stamp legislature, its National Security Council also absolved the IRGC of any blame in lying about the fate of the doomed airliner.

“There was no intention to cover up the reasons behind this incident from the very beginning, taking into account that such a cover-up was actually impossible in view of the nature and technical characteristics of the crash,” Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ali Shamkhani said on Sunday. “The announcement of the real cause of the Ukrainian plane crash took some time due to the necessity of examining all the possible theories, including ‘possible enemy actions in jamming’, ‘hacking of systems’, ‘infiltration [of enemy agents]’, and other related factors.”

Notably, Shamkhani reportedly claimed that it was “impossible” to cover up shooting down the airplane even if Iran wanted to do so.

Ali Rabiee, a spokesman for the senior leadership of the Iranian regime, also “admired the General Staff of the Armed Forces for its transparency about what happened,” according to the Iranian Tasnim News Agency on Monday.

“Speaking at a weekly press conference on Monday, Ali Rabiee said the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces did an admirable job on Saturday when it candidly accepted responsibility for the downing of the Ukrainian jetliner and declared that the plane was shot down due to a human error,” Tasnim noted. “Taking responsibility for the incident was a praiseworthy move and a good beginning, Rabiee said, stressing that this transparency will definitely continue until the end of the investigations.”

“The stances that had been taken (by the Iranian officials) were rooted in ignorance and being kept in the dark,” he said, referring to the official preliminary report by Tehran claiming that mechnical error caused the plane to crash.

The praise for the armed forces after having killed 176 civilians followed saccharine displays of guilt on behalf of senior military leaders over the weekend.

“After hearing the news in the country’s west after implementing the military operation against American bases and when I made sure that this incident has happened, I wished I was dead,” Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Aerospace Force of the IRGC, said on Saturday. “For a lifetime, we put our life on the line for the people, and today we put our honor on the line for God and face the cameras in such difficult circumstances.”

“Neither the Guards nor the armed forces never intended to cover up, but this was a process that had to be perused,” he insisted.

Commander of the IRGC Major General Hossein Salami similarly made the claim that he wished himself dead.

“General Salami underlined that although the IRGC’s missile attacks against Ein al-Assad is a source of pride and honor, the IRGC forces and commanders are devotees to the nation, and he wished he had been among the passengers of Boeing 737 and died with the passengers of the plane and wound not be ashamed before the Iranian nation today,” Iranian parliament member Ahmad Alireza Beigi said on Sunday.

The overwrought statements by senior officials contrast significantly to their remarks last week, when they insisted the plane had spontaneously erupted into flames and Iran played no role in its demise.

“[W]hat is obvious to us and we can say for sure is that no missile has hit the plane,” Civil Aviation Organization of Iran chief Ali Abedzadeh insisted on Friday, hours before the IRGC refuted his statement.

Iran behaved suspiciously while insisting on its innocence last week, refusing to hand the plane’s black boxes to Boeing, its manufacturer, and instead suggesting they might end up in Russia. Extensive photographic evidence of the crash site also revealed the use of bulldozers to remove key evidence that may have implicated Tehran in the mass homicide.

Even while admitting guilt, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed America for the attack on a civilian aircraft.

“Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster,” Zarif said Saturday on Twitter.

“Following threats by the criminal US president and military commanders to strike a large number of targets on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s territory in case of an Iranian attack and due to the unprecedented aerial movements in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Armed Forces were on highest levels of alert to respond to any possible threats,” the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces similarly said that day.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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