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Iran still hiding something about airline shootdown

Iran still hiding something about airline shootdown

In order to believe the Iranian explanation of low-level operator error, you have to believe a lot of unbelievable things.

Iran had a story, and it stuck to it for a couple of days: There was a mechanical failure that brought down Ukrainian civilian airliner Flight PS752 that had just taken off from Tehran airport. Iran refused to hand over the black boxes and bulldozed the debris field to make it more difficult for outsiders to investigate.

The Mullah regime said the claim an Iranian anti-aircraft missile brought down the airplane was CIA disinformation.

As the intelligence information mounted, and even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the evidence pointed to an Iranian missile, Iran finally admitted that it fired an anti-aircraft missile by mistake and that brought down the airplane.

But the Iranian explanation still has plenty of holes in it. The explanation is that a junior officer fired the missile because he thougth the ascending airplane was an incoming cruise missile, and he had only 10 seconds to decide:

In his press conference, Amir Ali Hajizadeh commander of Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claims the Iran air defense operators had only 10 seconds to decide to shoot at what might be a cruise missile and his communications were jammed

The operator fired, Iran claimed, when the plane turned sharply towards a restricted and sensitive military area:

A military statement carried by state media said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military centre” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The military was at its “highest level of readiness,” it said, amid the heightened tensions with the United States.

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander said his unit accepts “full responsibility” for what happened. In an address broadcast by state TV on Saturday, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that when he learned about the downing of the plane, “I wished I were dead.”

“In such a condition, because of human error and in an unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the military statement said. It apologized for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future. It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would be prosecuted.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp. is blaming others within Iran:

Hajizadeh says decision to not cancel civilian flights on 8 January did not lie with the IRGC. “From my point of view, when we face conditions of war, the relevant authorities had to take that measure.”

This story makes little sense. Yes, there’s little doubt that an Iranian missile brought down the plane, but in order to believe the explanation behind it you’d have to believe:

  1. The Iranian military and radar tracking didn’t know that airplanes still were taking off from the airport
  2. The Iranian military and radar tracking are so unsophisticated they can’t distinguish between a large airliner climbing on takeoff from an incoming cruise missile
  3. The airplane was not tracked until 10 seconds before firing, even though it was a large and relatively slow moving object that had just taken off from the airport.

I’m not buying it. They are hiding something. But what? I’m guessing that more senior officers were involved, and that it was not operator error.


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On the news tonight was a story about protests in Tehran with chants of death to khomeni.

First time I’ve EVER heard of protests AGAINST the regime in Iran being carried by the media.

Stomachs roasting in hell or something.

Alternative hypotheses floating around are that the Russians who built the system had a backdoor into the control software which enabled them to launch the missile at a Ukranian plane independent of what the guy at the controls were actually doing. Imagine being an operator who had to tell his superior “I dunno chief, the system just started up on its own and launched a couple of missiles.” Keep in mind that a whole bunch of planes took off that night and only 1 was targeted.

Another is that someone from Russia paid these guys a bunch of $$ to down a plane belonging to the country that they are currently warring with. Every explanation has to have a “follow the money” angle to be complete.

Mistaking an ascending blip above 4000 ft for a cruise missile that normally flies at 200 ft tells everyone that your air defenses are shyte and that pretty much anything will make it through and that your interceptors are at as much risk as the aggressors planes/missiles.

And finally we must default to “never ascribe to malice that easily explained by stupidity.” This could be a mule with a spinning wheel scenario at the core.

The probable explanation? Simple terror.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to | January 11, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    So now why are they holding the Black Boxes, maybe they would show that Iran is lying again? Could we have just one accident like this with a nuke?

I still think it was operator error. Any other explanation requires a rather convoluted explanation.

However, the cover-up isn’t surprising, either. Totalitarians notoriously can’t appear to be vulnerable or mistake-prone. So, they might very well build a grand edifice of lies to make sure that a simple explanation that implicates their leadership becomes someone else’s fault.

Yeah, they’re still lying. But it probably is as simple as a missile operator f*ed up.

    alaskabob in reply to GWB. | January 11, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Hard to buy a “Bedford Incident” considering how complex these systems are and they do have safeguards. The person who finally pushed the button either did it on orders or fearful of not shooting it down. Case in point… KAL 007 where the plane was almost out of Soviet territory and they shot it down just to be sure whatever it was was downed. Shoot first ask questions later.

    Tiki in reply to GWB. | January 11, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    IRI probably hacked the blackbox to view the data? And doing so requires some technical expertise they lacked – since they didn’t want the outside world to know that they’d tampered with the device? That accounts for the time delay between denial and admission?

    Why would Iran purposefully shoot down an airliner?

    I’ve no idea. Someone or something was on the flight that Iran couldn’t allow to fall into the hands of western intelligence services?

      NGAREADER in reply to Tiki. | January 11, 2020 at 3:27 pm

      It had just left their own airport and was more than half filled with Iranians so I doubt that one.

    inspectorudy in reply to GWB. | January 11, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    Actually, it almost couldn’t be operator error because several other jets had taken off using the exact same route. And several more after the shoot-down took off as well with no interference. The mullahs were arresting many of the IRG after the death of Soleimani because they learned that one of them had triggered him for the attack. My theory is that they learned that he and maybe some of his accomplices were on that plane trying to escape.

Chuckin Houston | January 11, 2020 at 3:06 pm

Another possibility is that the missile system was operated by Russian contractors. The Russian AA missiles may be very good, but are dependent on being used as part of an integrated air defense system. I’m guessing the IFF is not managed at the individual battery/ radar unit level, but somewhere higher up in an integrated system which Iran didn’t have in place. This is similar to the incident when Ukrainian ‘separatists’ shot down the Malaysian airliner in Easten Ukraine. That battery was most likely operated by Russians too.

    NGAREADER in reply to Chuckin Houston. | January 11, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    I would guess the Russians operation the battery may be the right answer.

    The link below leads to an excellent 2016 article about flight MH17.

    I’m pretty sure the man operating the blog was a UKR intelligence officer – his ability to connect cell phone images snapped by Russian mercenaries to their relative locations in Ukraine and then plotting those locations on google maps was no small feat and in no way conducted by an amateur. For example: comparing google sat images of roadside tree shadow angles cast on highways – with images snapped by mercenaries in convoys along those same highways.

    (…)Something had to be done to turn the tide and so Russia started to shell the Ukrainian border units from Russian soil, but of course portrayed this as ‘separatists artillery’.

    On July 16th videos emerged from Russian GRADs near Gukovo firing into Ukraine. Russia could no longer hide its involvement if this would widely become known. The next day MH17 was shot down.

    MH17: A Russian BUK SA-11 was driven into Ukraine and it shot down a passenger plane. It looked like the separatists made a mistake, because they thought it was an AN-26 but it turned out to be a civilian plane.

    But the MH17-BUK was positioned very close to the Russian border and later it became clear that a Russian BUK battery was operational near the Ukrainian border. They easily could have communicated with the MH17-BUK and given it data and instructions.

They knew that Jeffrey Epstein was on the flight.

Richard Aubrey | January 11, 2020 at 3:11 pm

When you need improbabilities to be coincident, it’s like multiplying fractions. You get to a very small value very fast.
Best I’ve heard: The Iranian forces were put on alert due to expected retaliation from the US after their fizzled missile attack. Expect retaliation.
Some years back, the IAF hit a Syrian reactor, iirc, so fast that nobody got a shot off at them. The local air defense commander was executed.
So the Iranian air defense guy was pretty nervous.
Back in the day, I talked to one of our missile guys. What if you see a UFO? If he’s not squawking (transponder) and not in an authorized flight path, he gets our attention Don’t care who he is.
Russian doctrine is if it flies, it dies, except for predetermined flight paths to and from our lines. Doesn’t matter whose it is. Saves confusion, I guess.
So combine that doctrine with the anticipation and the Uke liner was delayed so ATC might not have put out a warning….

“Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh said that when he learned about the downing of the plane, ‘I wished I were dead.’”

That’s probably being arranged.

Perhaps the Iranians were counting on the fact that the deranged progs and their media lapdogs in the west would blame the outcome on Trump, no matter what. Maybe they killed all those people on purpose. They’ve done far worse many times in the past.

Of course the higher echelon of Iranian air defense knew the 737 was present since the 737 was being vectored by ATC & ATC tracks are shared with military air defense systems.
Most likely scenario is the SA-15 (NATO codename, ‘Tor’ in Russian) SAM launcher was operating autonomously & did not have a data link display from HQ of the Teheran air picture showing the 737 as a friendly/neutral. The SA-15 is Russian-built & the Russians use IFF (ID Friend or Foe) systems which are unique to Russia & typically they do NOT fit their SAMs with Western IFF interrogation capability. Otherwise, the crew would have seen the 737 squawking an ATC-assigned Mode III IFF squawk & known it was friendly/neutral. It’s also possible the Iranian SA-15 was fitted for Mode III IFF interrogation but the crew either failed to turn it on or ignored the indications.
The ’10 second window to shoot’ is almost certainly BS, as is the 737 ‘turned towards a military base.’ Iranian govt officials lie, it’s what they do.
Hanlon’s razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

    Mac45 in reply to navillus. | January 11, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    This is probably pretty close to what happened.

    If thee battery was in autonomous mode, it could very easily have targeted the airliner and launched, without independent authorization, if the aircraft had turned or even drifted out of a prescribed “safety lane”. Then again, air defense personnel could have been unable to identify the aircraft and erred on the side of caution and launched. It could have been done intentionally for some unknown reason. There a number of possible scenarios and we do not have enough information to make an accurate determination of exactly what happened.

    That being said, it was criminal that the Iranian civil aviation authority did not ground all civil aircraft until, at least, morning. Though, it is possible that they were hoping for a US retaliation which might result in the downing of a civilian aircraft or to be able to blame the downing of such an aircraft on incoming US munitions. Unfortunately, if that was the plan, the US threw a huge monkey wrench into the plan by not retaliating.

As a country, there is no downside for Iran to do anything. The couple of missile operators directly involved are probably gone. But the leadership continues to chant, fund terrorism, enrich uranium for bombs and other nefarious schemes.

Example: the “students” who took over the US Embassy in 1979 went on to higher positions. The citizens live like crap, but the leaders are prospering.

As Christopher Wray might say, “mistakes were made.”

Simplest explanation is they expected a strike from the US, and thought they could blame us.

They got away with it, even though we didn’t shoot at all.

The blame didn’t go away. It’s intensifying.

Clearly, the Iranian plan was to make it look like the U.S. shot down the airliner.

There is no way that the Iranians didn’t know that satellite images would show the launch and track of the missile they fired. That would mean that they had to do it anyway no matter the PR cost. Then they tried to stop any further discussion by bulldozing the site and destroying the pieces. They then had to say it was a “Mistake” but none of the missile systems use one-man total control. Also, the US said it saw the targeting radar come on just before the plane took off which tells me that they knew someone was on that plane that they did not want to get out. If the IRG was behind the identification of the monster then he had to getaway. They have arrested over 60 IRG since the strike because they suspect they were in on the hit by the US.

Another theory, this ties in the two small earthquakes that happened in the same time period.

US sends a message to Iran that we will give a demonstration of our capability to take out any of their facilities. We send in a couple of stealth bombers with bunker bombs and take out a couple of prearranged sites. Iran goes on alert and downs the airliner by mistake.

Occam’s Razor: Ill-trained and young missile operator reads about the Soleimani missile attack in Iraq, hears all the chatter about the Great Satan getting ready to strike Iran, WWIII, et al…

Stress raises until Iran fires its barrage of ballistic missiles, the young man expects to see US bombers striking back at any minute, gets so jittery he flips on the radar and sees… A bomber! Fire, fire!

If the young man in charge of the missile vehicle was some sort of privileged high muckity-muck’s son, that explains it even more.

I don’t know the technicalities, and am completely open to changing the following if better information emerges.

My guess is that there was nothing intentional about it, but rather one of those operational clusterf**ks where errors coincide. Recall that the U.S.S. Vincennes downed an Iran Air passenger jet in 1988, killing all 290 on board. The explanation for that one was muddled and disputed, but the U.S. owned up to it within a few days and issued a statement of “deep regret” that the Iranians may well have used as the patter for their statement.

The difference, of course, was that the U.S. never denied shooting down the plane. Eight years later, the U.S. paid $210,000 per death, but also never admitted liability nor did we apologize. (I’d love to know whether the families ever saw a penny, or whether the Iranian government simply stole the money. I’d pick Door #2, but have nothing to back it up.)

My point is NOT to take Iran’s side or to blame the U.S. in any way for what just happened, but rather that technical problems have a way of piling up no matter who you are. My guess is that we will never know the full story. It will be interesting to see of the Iranians ever pay so much as a nickel as a settlement.

Fluffy Foo Foo | January 11, 2020 at 8:04 pm

I’ve heard talk of two different possibilities.

1. There were Soleimaini allies on the flight and needed to be taken out;

2. Or there were anti-regime folks on the flight who they didn’t want making it to Canada or wherever.

I think it could be they wanted someone on the plane dead.
Or they did it thinking with the dems denouncing PDJT they’d also blame PDJT for the murder of the people on the plane and people would get on board with the dems. Remember they’ve really only dealt with the pansies of the dem party for the most part and have never been held accountable for their actions.
Or they’re just as stupid as pelosi and her withholding of the impeachment documents.

What they’re hiding is that it wasn’t unintentional. I believe there were people on that flight that Iran suspected or knew were fleeing agents of other countries. Possible those responsible for the intel that was required for the US to target Solemani.

It’s as simple as that. Right now a lot of the upper members of the IRGC have been arrested. My guess is they’re questioning a lot of the members to see if they can flush out the people who supplied the intel. A lot of information had to be funneled to the US for it to make that shot. Most of them in positions to knowing that information.

So right now Iran is focused inward because some body helped the US. They’ve also got to make risk assessments with the idea in mind that the US just might take THEM out instead of low level/proxy agents that do the dirty work. The US has put IRAN (and other states) on notice that they will be targeting those at the top for any retaliation deemed necessary. This is a change from the last 40 years.

It’s Iran, of course it was intentional.

Anyone the thinks a country that sends children into the mine fields to clear a path through the mines wouldn’t purposely down an airliner for propaganda purposes has their head in a dark place.

It’s the simplest explanation.

Richard Aubrey | January 12, 2020 at 9:49 am

I don’t get the propaganda angle. Unless they figured their complicity would remain hidden–and they have a pretty good idea that the Great Satan has a lot of capability–then who are they thinking they’d fool. Dem operatives and US journos won’t be fooled exactly, but they’ll lie hoping to fool others. But nobody believes them anyway.
About the only thing that they might have wanted others to know is how ruthless they are, as a lesson pour discourager les autres.

    Richard, I didn’t give an opinion on why the Iranians purposely shot the plane down, only that it is not an accident and that the Iranian regime has no respect for life.

    I simply don’t know why they did it. My opinion, based on the circumstances and the history of the Iranians, is they did it on purpose.

      Barry in reply to Barry. | January 12, 2020 at 11:13 am

      Oops, in that comment I did say “propaganda purposes” responding to what I was reading in some other comments. I had made comments in other places that I thought it was deliberate but not why.

      They depend upon the compliant press in other countries to cover for them. The US press is doing that now, so perhaps not that farfetched.

      Your explanation works as well. I simply don’t know the why but the situation defies thinking it was an accident.

I am with the Proffessor. This thing is too hinky. I can’t explain why. This was no accident.

    alaskabob in reply to Arminius. | January 13, 2020 at 1:19 am

    There may have been someone or some thing on the plane they couldn’t let get away but dared not demand return to airport or conveniently got rid of by hiding it so many deaths.

This was an idea. It was a stupid idea.

Iran wouldn’t be the 1st country to do something this stupid on purpose.

I was a Naval intelligence officer for 20 years. It was a point of honor we in intel don’t advise the operators what to do.

I give you the information. You do what you want.

Now that I no longer have to choke it down for professional purposes, I believe I will carry my fat arse across the parking lot to the restaurant.

Continue doing what you want.