- Iran is doubling down in refuting the idea that a plane crash that killed 176 people on Wednesday could have been caused by one of its own missiles.
- A government spokesperson called the idea a “big lie” and accused the “psychological operation of the US government.”
- Iran has denied the idea that the plane was taken down by a missile, but both and US and Canada say that their intelligence indicates that is what happened. A presidential advisor said Persian-language media was “warned”against repeating the “psychological warfare.”
- Ukraine, where the plane was from, said the idea that it was a missile was not confirmed, and said “Our goal is to establish the undeniable truth.”
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Iran is doubling down in refuting allegations that it shot down a Ukrainian plane and killed all 176 people on board, calling them a “big lie” and claiming the US is carrying out a “psychological operation” to discredit its story.
Both the US and Canada say that their intelligence indicates that an Iranian missile shot Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 down on Wednesday morning.
This is something that could have happened in error as Iran was bracing for potential US retaliation to its missile strikes on bases housing US troops in Iraq.
Iran reacted to the claims of anonymous US intelligence officials and of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday by stating that the country’s missiles would not be able to reach the plane’s altitude, though other information about the missiles disputes this.
And on Friday morning, government spokesperson Ali Rabiei called the idea Iran downed the plane a “big lie.”
“No one will assume responsibility for such a big lie once it is known that the claim had been fraudulent,” he said in a statement, according to state media outlet Press TV.
“It is unfortunate that the psychological operation of the US government, and those supporting it knowingly and unknowingly, are adding insult to the injury of the bereaved families and victimizing them for certain goals by propagating such fallacies,” he said.
While Iran walked back statements that the crash was definitely not a terrorist attack in the hours following the crash, it has consistently pushed back against ideas that the crash could have involved a missile or such an attack.
Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran’s civil aviation organization, was more measured in his comments on Friday morning, but said that Iran could say say with “certainty that no missile has hit this airplane.”
And Hesameddin Ashena, an advisor to Iran’s president, said on Friday that Persian-language media had been “warned” against repeating the “psychological warfare” Iran says is being carried out by Western nations.
Intelligence suggests an Iranian missile was responsible, as Iran weighs up what role to give other countries in the investigation
Multiple reports on Thursday cited a host of US intelligence officials who claimed that it was “highly likely,” based on information available, that Iran was responsible.
These included sources telling CBS that intelligence detected anti-aircraft radars turning on before the crash and that satellites detected two infrared blips, thought to be SA-15 missiles, that were quickly followed by another blip, the suspected aircraft explosion.
The New York Times said it had verified a video that it said appears to show a missile hitting the plane.
The plane, a Boeing 737-800 NG, was flying from Tehran, Iran, to Kyiv, Ukraine.
Prime Minister Trudeau then said on Thursday that intelligence from Canada and its allies indicated that the plane was brought down by an Iranian missile, and called for a “thorough” investigation. 63 Canadians were killed on the flight.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the idea that a missile shot the plane down had not been confirmed, and that he wanted Canada, the US, the UN, and other countries with data about the crash to share their evidence.
“Our goal is to establish the undeniable truth,” he said.
Ukraine had said on Thursday that it wanted to investigate the possibility that the plane was downed by a missile, and was working with Iran to gain access to the site.
The crash took place just hours after Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at US forces in Iraq in retaliation to a US airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week.
Pentagon officials told Newsweek that they thought the missile likely hit the plane by accident, as Iranian defense systems were likely active at the time it was flying.
Iran had said in its initial report into the crash on Thursday that the plane had suffered an unnamed technical fault shortly after takeoff, was on fire in the air, and that it had turned back in the direction of the airport before it crashed.
Iran has signaled that it will allow Boeing, an American manufacturer, to join in the investigation, despite earlier statements that it would not do so.
Iran is leading an investigation into the crash in accordance with international law, and says that it has invited other countries who had citizens on board in a bid to be transparent.
But Iran also said that it wants to try and deal with data from the plane’s black boxes itself, rather than send them to another country, and signaled that it would only involve other countries if they are too damaged to read using technology available in Iran.
Iran has also reportedly used bulldozers to move around debris from the crash site, potentially destroying evidence which could help determine exactly what happened.