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Iran acknowledges responsibility for Ukrainian Airlines Boeing 737 crash. An air defense mistake

(B2) In an act of contrition (rather rare), Iran admitted, on Saturday (January 11th), in the early hours of the morning, having shot down the Boeing of Ukrainian Airlines by mistake. An error assumed up to the highest level of the State (Hassan Rohani) and by the staff of the armies

The day before, the Canadian Prime Minister had officially questioned the firing of an Iranian surface-to-air missile (read: The crash of Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752 due to an Iranian surface-to-air missile (Trudeau). The response was quick. The so-called 'crash diplomacy' is fully in play.

President Hassan Rouhani acknowledges full responsibility of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the crash (photo credit: Iranian Presidency)

A human error of the Iranian forces

An internal investigation armed forces », leads to a conclusion: it is a « human error ", which led to the " disaster " in one " moment of crisis", recognizes the head of Iranian diplomacy, Javad Zarif, in a short message published at 7:35 a.m. from Tehran (5:05 a.m. Paris).

And to address our deep regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, the families of all the victims and the other affected nations. »

But the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs also questions " American adventurism [which] led to disaster ».

An unforgivable error, the culprits will be prosecuted

Statement confirmed by Hassan Rohani. It is a mistake " unforgivable says the Iranian president. " The responsibles " of this “horrible accident [which] caused the death of 176 innocent people […] will be prosecuted » he announced in a press release published on the website of the presidency. It also announces consular cooperation with the countries concerned (NB: what Canada had requested in particular and the countries of origin of the victims). " The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will cooperate fully with the consular services to identify the bodies of the victims and return them to their families. »

A very diplomatic message

It can be noted that the President's statement has been translated into several languages ​​by the agency Irna. As for the message of condolence, it is addressed in the name of the Islamic Republic " to nations, governments and families of non-Iranian victims ". The presidency's tweet is 'pinned' (promoted) on Hassan Rouhani's twitter profile.

An error assumed by the staff of the armies

The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces published a statement which explains the sequence of events, a statement reproduced and translated by the Iranian agency Irna. Which is exceptional to say the least, especially since it indirectly implicates the 'Guardians of the Revolution'.

A shot from the Iranian flak

The context was tense according to them. " A few hours after the Iranian missile strike, warplanes belonging to the American terrorist forces increased their flights in the airspace surrounding Iran, with reports announcing flying targets heading towards sensitive Iranian defense sites. In addition, many cases were observed on radar screens, which demanded greater vigilance and a state of maximum alert from the defense units of the Iranian Air Force (DCA). »

Fear of an attack on a base of the Revolutionary Guards

« In an ultra-sensitive and critical situation, Ukrainian[ian] Airlines flight 752, which took off from Imam Khomeini International Airport, flew very close to a sensitive military site belonging to IRGC forces [Editor's note: Revolutionary Guard Corps]. The altitude and position of the flight was perceived as an enemy action, inadvertently causing the flak to react with fire; this human error has unfortunately caused the martyrdom of a number of Iranian and foreign nationals »

The staff assumes the fault

After presenting his most sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims and also his apologies for the serious human error committed ", the General Staff ensures to review its modus operandi « so that such errors do not occur again ". But above all he points out that those responsible for the incident will be immediately brought to justice ».

Analysis: The game of international pressure, but also internal

International pressure played, but also internal pressure. There's no denying it. Most of the victims happen to be Iranians, many of whom had dual nationality. Tehran thus identifies 147 national victims, whereas the Ukrainians only mention 82. A difference which is explained by the fact that a number of people, in particular Canadians and Swedes, had dual nationality. One cannot deny also the will for Iran to play the role of the 'nice' vis-a-vis the 'villain' American. The acknowledgment of responsibility was rather quick, if we refer to a few memorable similar or analogous cases (read: Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752. Quick acknowledgment of responsibility).

A 'crash diplomacy'

This sets up what can be called a 'crash diplomacy' that we have already experienced in the past. President Rouhani's message is addressed not only to families, but also to governments. That is to say to Ukraine and Sweden, but also to Canada and the United Kingdom, two member countries of NATO and very close to the United States, hated by the Islamic regime. One could almost thus speak of a willingness to extend a hand from Iran to Western countries. A sign of a certain relaxation, but also of the desire to drive 'a wedge' between the Allies?

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).