Outrage follows Iranâs admission of shootdown
In what President Hassan Rouhani called a “disastrous mistake,” Iran said on Saturday that a missile fired in error on Wednesday by its air defenses while on alert after Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq brought down the plane.
AFP / Atta Kenare

Outrage follows Iran’s admission of shootdown

Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2020 - 12:00am

DUBAI – Iran’s admission that it shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing all 176 aboard, has provoked international outrage and triggered protests against Iranian authorities in Tehran and other cities, including one in which Britain’s ambassador was detained.

In what President Hassan Rouhani called a “disastrous mistake,” Iran said on Saturday that a missile fired in error on Wednesday by its air defenses while on alert after Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq brought down the plane.

Iran had denied for days after the crash that it had shot down the airliner.

Even as top Iranian officials and the military issued apologies, protests against authorities spread across Iran, including in the capital Tehran, Shiraz, Esfahan, Hamedan and Orumiyeh.

US President Donald Trump, who has said he does not seek “regime change” in Iran, took to Twitter to express his support for the demonstrators, writing, “We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage.”

“The government of Iran must allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people. There cannot be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching,” Trump wrote.

Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed late on Saturday that the country’s ambassador in Tehran had been briefly detained by Iranian authorities.

The Tehran-based Tasnim news agency said the envoy was arrested for several hours in front of Amir Kabir University for inciting anti-government protesters.

A leader of Iran’s opposition Green Movement, Mehdi Karroubi, called on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down over the handling of the downed airliner.

Foreign governments condemned the downing of the plane, with Ukraine demanding compensation. Canada, Ukraine and Britain, however, called Tehran’s admission an important first step.

“What Iran has admitted to is very serious. Shooting down a civilian aircraft is horrific. Iran must take full responsibility,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country had 57 citizens on board, told a news conference in Ottawa.

Up to 1,000 protesters chanted slogans in Tehran against the authorities, the semi-official Fars news agency said in a rare report on anti-government unrest.

Demonstrators ripped up pictures of Qassem Soleimani, a prominent Iranian military commander who was killed on Jan. 3 by a US drone strike in Iraq ordered by Trump.

Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq on Wednesday in retaliation for the killing led to Iran being on a state of high alert for possible reprisals when the plane was downed.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, in a rare step, apologized to the nation and accepted full responsibility.

‘Iranians smartest race’

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teo-doro Locsin Jr. yesterday lauded Iran for being the most “reflective” about its own mistakes, calling Iranians “the smartest race.”

Iran admitted its military made an “unforgivable mistake” in unintentionally shooting down the Ukrainian plane.

“No demonstrations after the USS Vincennes shot down a commercial airline. I told you the Iranians are the smartest – in mind and feeling – race on the planet; the most reflective about their country’s own mistakes,” Locsin Jr. tweeted.

Iran Air flight 655 was shot down by the missile cruiser USS Vincennes on July 3, 1988 over the Strait of Hormuz, killing all 290 people on board. The passenger plane, which was in Iranian airspace, had been incorrectly identified as a fighter jet.

On Saturday, Iran blamed the shooting on “human error,” brought about by an atmosphere of crisis caused by the sudden escalation of Iran’s conflict with the United States.

In a social media post, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to the disaster.”

“Manfully facing up to possible mistakes. Mark of a great civilization is a profound sense of responsibility for consequences and a deep aversion to whining,” Locsin said. 


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