Iran announced on Saturday that the Ukrainian jet that crashed on 8 January near the capital of Tehran, which killed all 176 people on board, was unintentionally brought down by Iranian forces that falsely recognised it as an enemy aircraft following an escalation in Iran-US tensions. Iranian authorities, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, have expressed their condolences to the people of Iran and to the families of the victims who perished in the deadly catastrophe, saying that all those responsible would be held accountable following the ongoing investigation.
Joaquin Flores, the editor-in-chief of Fort Russ News, said that Iran potentially made a “critical” mistake by allowing civilian aircraft into its flying zone, despite the ongoing tensions with Washington.
“Ultimately, unless it is later found that a lower level Iranian official did not follow a policy in place, then Iran made a critical error on the level of policy in allowing civilian flights to depart during a moment when their air-defences were reading heightened activity from US interlopers”, Flores said, noting that the Unites States also bears “tremendous responsibility” in the “ongoing game of brinkmanship” in the region.
The editor also noted that it would be wrong to suggest that Iran’s actions were intentional.
“At any rate, out of consideration are any claims that Iran would have intentionally targeted a civilian plane at the same time that the US would have been looking for any provocation to jump on”, Flores concluded.
The Iranian military recently said that the operators of the Iranian air defence system made a mistake when shooting down the airplane, which was flying near a sensitive military installation, after falsely identifying it as an enemy aircraft due to “faulty communication”. Iran’s General Staff also said that the tragic mistake occurred while Tehran was awaiting a US response to the Iranian missile strikes, amid Donald Trump’s earlier “threats” to target 52 sites in the country.
Iran-US relations hit a new low on 3 January when a US drone strike killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, which was followed by Tehran’s retaliatory attacks on American military facilities at the Ayn al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq and in Erbil on the same day that the Ukrainian plane crashed. An investigation into the incident is still ongoing.