Reports: Pentagon now believes Iran shot down Ukrainian airliner

by WorldTribune Staff, January 9, 2020

Pentagon officials now believe the Ukrainian airliner which crashed in Iran on Jan. 8 was mistakenly shot down by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile.

U.S. intelligence said the airliner was likely accidentally struck by a Russian-made missile. All 176 on board Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 were killed.

Wreckage of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752, with part of an engine in the foreground. / Creative Commons / CC-BY 4.0

“We have a high level of confidence that this was shot down by Iran,” a U.S. official said, according to the Wall Street Journal. The official added that the plane was being followed by Iranian radar which is used to aim missiles just before two were fired.

The plane went down just hours after Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles targeting two military bases housing American and coalition troops in Iraq.

“An absolute tragedy,” one U.S. official told Fox News. “They just screwed up and it is tragic.”

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, told Ukrainian media that “a strike by a missile, possibly a Tor missile system, is among the main (theories), as information has surfaced on the Internet about elements of a missile being found near the site of the crash.”

A U.S. official told Fox News that a Russian-made SA15 missile, which is part of the Tor surface-to-air missile system, was the kind that brought down the Ukrainian aircraft. Russia delivered 29 Tor-M1 systems to Iran in 2007 as part of a $700 million contract signed in December 2005.

When asked Thursday about what could have happened to the Ukrainian International Airlines flight, U.S. President Donald Trump said he didn’t believe that a mechanical failure caused the crash.

“It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood,” Trump said. “Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side.”

Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesman of the Iranian armed forces, said reports that a missile had hit the passenger plane were “psychological warfare” by foreign-based Iranian opposition groups.

The “black boxes” that contain data and cockpit communications from the Ukrainian plane were recovered, but Iranian officials reportedly refused to release them.

“We insist Iran give us full access to the investigation and to the materials of the investigation and I call on everyone to avoid any speculations,” Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, said Thursday.

Oleksandr Zaporozhchenko, a mechanic with the Ukraine International Airlines in 2016-2018, said he knew one of the crew members of the plane and had never heard any complaints about the aircraft, which was less than four years old.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a statement that prohibits “U.S. civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman,” following Iran’s rocket attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

“The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East.”

The FAA said it issued the airspace ban “due to heightened military activities and increased political tensions in the Middle East, which present an inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations.”

Trump on Wednesday said funds the Obama administration sent to Iran were used to pay for missiles that were aimed at U.S. troops in Iraq.

“The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration,” Trump said from the White House, referring to so-called “settlement money” the U.S. paid to Iran in 2016.

“Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash,” Trump said. “Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they chanted ‘Death to America.’ ”

Trump added that Iran went on a “terrorist spree” with the money from the Obama administration “and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq.”

It has also been reported that Vice President Mike Pence called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday night to inform her that Iran was launching missiles on U.S. forces in Iraq.

“Tell him I’ll call him back,” Pelosi said, according to a Politico reporter.

After Trump ordered the strike which took out Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, Pelosi said he should have first asked Congress for permission.

“We cannot put the lives of American servicemembers, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions,” Pelosi said. “Tonight’s airstrike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America –- and the world -– cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return.”

Washington Examiner writer Byron York noted the disconnect after Pelosi refused Pence’s call.

“Speaker Pelosi doesn’t like it when the administration doesn’t give her foreign policy updates. So VP Pence calls with word of Iran missile attack. ‘Tell him I’ll call him back,’ Pelosi says,” York tweeted.

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