Middle East Online

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Zarif admits Tehran lied to Iranians about plane crash

Iran’s top diplomat acknowledged Wednesday that Iranians “were lied to” for days following Tehran’s accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 people.

The comments by Mohammad Javad Zarif in New Delhi represent the first time an Iranian official referred to the earlier story that a technical malfunction downed the Ukraine International Airlines flight as a lie.

The shootdown has sparked days of angry protests in the country, demanding the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and regime change.

“In the last few nights, we’ve had people in the streets of Tehran demonstrating against the fact that they were lied to for a couple of days,” Zarif said.

Zarif went on to praise Iran’s military for being “brave enough to claim responsibility early on.”

However, he said that he and President Hassan Rouhani only learned that a missile had down the flight on Friday, raising new questions over how much power Iran’s civilian government has in its Shiite theocracy. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards, which shot down the aircraft, knew immediately afterward its missile downed the airline.

The Revolutionary Guards are answerable only to Khamenei, who is expected to preside over Friday prayers in Iran for the first time in years over anger about the crash.

The aerospace commander of the Revolutionary Guards accepted full responsibility for the incident.

But Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh said the missile operator acted independently, targeting the 737 after mistaking it for a “cruise missile”.

The operator failed to obtain approval from his superiors because of disruptions to a communications system, he said.

“He had 10 seconds to decide. He could have decided to strike or not to strike and under such circumstances, he took the wrong decision.”

Tehran’s acknowledgement came after officials in Iran denied for days Western claims that the Ukraine International Airlines plane had been struck by a missile in a catastrophic error.

The Kiev-bound jet slammed into a field shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on January 8.

The crash came hours after Tehran launched missiles at bases hosting American forces in Iraq in response to the killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike. Source