Iran won’t release black box from downed airliner; ‘Standing down’?

by WorldTribune Staff, January 8, 2020

Iran is refusing to hand over the black boxes from a Ukrainian passenger jet which crashed minutes after takeoff from Teheran on Tuesday.

According to reports, all 176 people on board died.

Iranians investigate the site of a Ukrainian passenger plane crash. / YouTube

Iranian officials claimed the crash was caused by an engine fire. Ukraine initially accepted this theory, but on Wednesday said it was too early to determine the cause.

Some have speculated that foul play could have been involved, citing Iran’s refusal to release the black boxes, which reports say have been recovered, and the fact that Ukraine said the passenger plane had just received scheduled maintenance. The plane was also relatively new, having been built less than four years ago.

The Boeing 737-800 was described by Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) as “one of the best planes we had,” with an “amazing, reliable crew.” According to a statement from the airline, the plane received scheduled maintenance on Monday. UIA officials told NBC News that the airline had never had a plane crash before Tuesday’s tragedy.

According to Iranian investigators, the pilot of the Ukrainian plane was unable to communicate with Teheran air traffic controllers in the final minutes before the crash, but they did not explain why not. On Wednesday, Iran’s civil aviation authority refused to give the black boxes to Boeing, which would normally analyze the data, or to any American agency.

The Ukrainian government said the crash victims included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, ten Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons. Many of them were students, and according to media accounts of debris at the crash site, some of them were children.

The crash occurred just hours after Iran launched missiles at two military bases in Iraq.

U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the nation on Wednesday morning, saying Iran “appears to be standing down.”

“I’m pleased to inform you: The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases,” Trump said.

The president continued: “Our great American forces are prepared for anything. Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”

Trump said that Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, was eliminated essentially without cost.

“As the head of the Quds Force, Soleimani was personally responsible for some of the absolutely worst atrocities,” Trump said. “He trained terrorist armies, including Hezbollah, launching terrorist strikes against civilian targets. He fueled bloody civil wars all across the region. He viciously wounded and murdered thousands of U.S. troops, including the planting of roadside bombs that maim and dismember their victims.”

The president continued: “Soleimani directed the recent attacks on U.S. personnel in Iraq that badly wounded four service members and killed one American, and he orchestrated the violent assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. In recent days, he was planning new attacks on American targets, but we stopped him.

“Soleimani’s hands were drenched in both American and Iranian blood. He should have been terminated long ago. By removing Soleimani, we have sent a powerful message to terrorists: If you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our people.”

Trump also announced immediate “punishing” sanctions on Iran but also said that the door was now open to negotiations “toward making a deal with Iran that makes the world a safer and more peaceful place. We must also make a deal that allows Iran to thrive and prosper, and take advantage of its enormous untapped potential. Iran can be a great country.”

Trump concluded with a message “to the people and leaders of Iran: We want you to have a future and a great future — one that you deserve, one of prosperity at home, and harmony with the nations of the world. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it.”

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