Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 12, 2020

Was The Shootdown Of The Ukrainian Airplane Near Tehran Intended, A Screw-Up Or A 'Mistake'?

After the shoot down of the Ukrainian flight PS752 the big question within Iran and within its military and political circles is what went wrong.

An analysis of the circumstances under which the incident took place unfortunately shows that nothing went wrong. The strategic and tactical decisions that were made were all rational and made sense. But unfortunately shit happens even when everything else works as it is supposed to work. 

The Iran Front Page has now published a full English language transcript of the press conference by IRGC Aerospace commander Brigadier General Amir-Ali Hajizadeh. It also provides a video with English subtitles of the talk. The narration he gives is highly plausible and has no contradictions within it.


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A detailed reading of his talk also clears up some misconceptions in the earlier reporting and comments:

Regarding the details of the incident, I should say; well, you know the region’s conditions remained tense and the risk of conflict was high for over a week. It was really unprecedented compared to what we saw in previous years, even since the 1979 Revolution. The risk of conflict was very high; both the Americans and the Iranian Armed Forces were on highest alert. The Americans had also threatened to hit 52 sites in Iran.

This is a main point one must keep in mind. There really was a threat from the U.S. and everyone thought that war would break out within the next minutes or hours. Decisions made under such stress are more prone to be wrong:

What we know from our investigations and from what our friends explained is that, well, at that night, for example from [Tuesday] evening, the level of preparedness was at wartime conditions; the highest alert level communicated by the integrated air defence to all systems. Under such circumstances, a number of air defence systems was added to Tehran’s air defence ring. The first system – which was behind the incident – was deployed in Bidganeh in western Tehran.
An integrated air defense system provides a full picture of the air situation to all connected units. Fixed radars, defense missile units and command and control centers are connected by secure landlines, not by radio.

But the mobile Tor M1 system responsible for shooting down the Ukrainian airliner was added as a stand alone system. It is an relatively old system. Its operators only had a voice radio connection to other parts of the network. If they had a data connection at all it was also via radio and with very little throughput. The system did not have the full picture of the air situation. Its own radar has a maximum detection range of 25 kilometer (16 miles). In most practical situations it will be a lot less than that. Bidganeh, where the system was deployed, is a strategic missile production and test facility some 30 kilometer away from Tehran airport. The Tor operator did not know that a civil airplane had just taken off:

At several stages, the Alert Level 3, which is the highest level, is communicated and emphasized to the entire network. So all air defence systems were at highest alert level. For several times, these systems including the one involved in the incident were notified by the integrated network that cruise missiles have been fired at the country. For a couple of times, they receive reports that ‘the cruise missiles are coming, be prepared’.

This is the normal 'fog of war' situation in which misinformation, or electronic interference, causes false alarms and where confusion sets in.

So you see the systems were at the highest alert level, where you should just press a button. They had been told cruise missiles were coming, and the air defence unit engaged in this incident and fired a missile. Now we have arranged an interview with this operator, which will be released soon as part of the plan to publicize the issue. He says in this interview that “we requested for several times that the country’s airspace be cleared of [civilian] flights.’ At the Alert Level 3, this is normal; such requests are made; well our dear brothers didn’t follow up the issue for certain considerations. So the planes fly despite the wartime situation.

This the major political issue, not a military one.

Iran's strategic intent after the U.S. assassination of its national hero Qassem Soleimani was to project defiance to the U.S. Its revenge missile barrage on the U.S. base in Iraq was fired despite harsh U.S. warnings and threats of war against Iran.

The pin point hits on the selected targets, mostly maintenance shacks, was a warning that demonstrated Iran's capabilities. I think it was necessary and worth the risk.

The political level decided that by leaving the airspace open and by showing normalcy it would further its strategic objective. Closing the airspace would have allowed the U.S. to claim that Iran is fearing its response and that it had shown weakness. The decision to not close the airspace was, I believe, strategically correct. But it had tactical costs which turned out to be high.

In those moments when the incident happens, this air defence unit realizes that there is a target – which it identified as a cruise missile – at a distance of 19 kilometres. [...] Given the information sent to this operator – that it is a wartime situation and a cruise missile has been fired – this poor guy identifies it as a cruise missile.

The Tor M1 was developed in 1991. The radar signals it generates are shown on an analog tube-screen. The radar's 'hits' on the screen are difficult to discriminate. At best one has speed, distance and direction of the target and must draw conclusion from that. The Boeing jet broadcast the usual civil ADS-B signal but one has to expect that a U.S. cruise missile can and would do the same. The speed of the still climbing Boeing 737 was about 250 knots or 460 kilometers per hour (286 mi/h). That is within the range of the speed of a typical cruise missile. The plane needed a bit less than 8 seconds to fly one kilometer. That left little time for the Tor operator to decide and react.

Well at such a situation, he was obliged to contact, get approval. This is where this operator makes the mistake; but at that moment, his communication system was apparently disrupted – whether because of jamming systems or the high traffic. For that reason, he fails to contact [his commanders]. He had 10 seconds to decide; he could hit or not hit [the target]. Under such circumstances, he decides to make that bad decision; he engages, the missile is fired, and the plane is hit at this place. Then it returns through this track, and here’s the point where it hits the ground.

Radio communication can be unreliable. The people at the other side of the operators call may have been talking to someone else or could  not react immediately. Air defense personal is trained to always presume electronic interference by enemy forces. The U.S. has publicly bragged about its cyber-attacks on IRGC systems. U.S. air attacks typically come behind a wave of electronic countermeasures.

Under these circumstances - highest possible alarm level, current warnings of hostile cruise missiles, unknown target flying towards a presumably military objective, lack of communication, little decision time - the operator of the Tor system did what he was trained to do.

As a former military officer I can not see any fault in what the man did. That is why I find this statement by Iran's President Rouhani to be wrong:

In a separate statement, Rouhani called the missile launch an “unforgivable mistake,” and he said officials must “address the weaknesses of the nation’s defense systems to make sure such a disaster is never repeated.”

Iran's strategic intent is to withstand U.S. pressure and to show defiance. Closing the airspace would have contradicted that objective. The shooting down of flight PS752 happened during a tactical engagement by a small mobile unit which did what it was supposed to do. Communication fuck-ups happen all the time during war like situations. They often cause casualties but are unavoidable.

The general in his press conference claimed that his organization is guilty:

Our dear brothers at the Aviation Organization categorically rejected the possibility of a missile hitting the plane; they acted based on what they knew. I must say they were not guilty and have nothing to do with this. All the blame is on us; they’re innocent. The plane was also on its track, it made no mistake. It did the right thing, as did the Aviation Organization. Everyone did the right thing. Only one of our forces made a mistake. Since he is under our command, we are responsible for that. We must be accountable.

It is the right thing to say public relation wise. But the incident itself is not a military error or mistake.

What one can and should criticize is the slow reaction of the Iranian military command after the incident happened. It launched an internal investigation and told everyone to be silent about it. It took the generals three days to look for an excuse that was impossible to find because everything that had happened did happen for rational reasons. The air defense systems have to be dispersed to make them less easy to attack. Communication failures are to be expected during a war. The soldiers are trained to act autonomously when comm-failures happen. They did what they had to do.

It is sad that this incident happened and that 176 lost their life. But if one wants to find a person guilty for it one must look for the person who caused the whole situation. That person is not the lowly sergeant who pressed the button. That person is U.S. President Donald Trump.

Posted by b on January 12, 2020 at 18:08 UTC | Permalink

Comments
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@pos | Jan 12 2020 23:34 utc | 88

Thanks for posting that analysis and timeline. Their analysis makes a good case that there were two missiles, dozens of seconds apart, and argue that both were launched by Iran. I am not aware that Iran has admitted to firing twice that far apart, and this does not seem to be the mainstream narrative. Granted Iran might prefer to admit only to the second missile, which arguably seems easier to justify. On the other hand I think it possible that the first, which apparently was what caused the fire and alerted various observers to start videoing the plane, was launched by some actors other than IRGC. I think it is also possible that the first explosion was not due to a missile but rather a bomb or possibly a mechanical failure.

Posted by: LarryMorgan | Jan 13 2020 0:15 utc | 101

Abass Ali Eshaqian who lost his son in the #UkrainianPlaneCrash tragedy writes a letter thanking people for their condolences and asked whoever is insulting the #IRG to stop as those gentlmen have always "gave their lives for our safety".

https://twitter.com/Marwa__Osman/status/1216124073543110661

Posted by: Sasha | Jan 13 2020 0:21 utc | 102

".. the radicals are losing ground to the conservatives who want to get rid of the sanctions and only care about their own country."
dave@96

No, dave, the neo-liberal reformers like Rouhani, 'the conservatives' as you call them, care only about the wealthy in Iran.
The 'radicals' are not committed to exporting the Revolution but to turning it into a social and economic revolution by mobilising the poor and sharing the wealth, property and power currently inequitably distributed.
This is class war: as in Venezuela, the radicals understand that the only way to beat the imperialists is by engaging the energies and commitments of every Iranian.
It is the failure of the Iranian government to settle the basic socio-economic questions that gives the United States and Israel the room to drive in wedges between rich and poor, educated and poor, peasants and city dwellers.

Posted by: bevin | Jan 13 2020 0:22 utc | 103

Looks like simple incompetence to me.

The airspace should have been shutdown for civilian flights...inexcusable given a US counter strike was likely at the time.

I feel sorry for the poor man that shot it down though. Imagine that on your conscience, but it seems like the failings were at a higher level.


Maybe the Russians need to come in and help them organise their AA systems.

Posted by: evilsooty999 | Jan 13 2020 0:30 utc | 104

"Iran carries out more sex reassignment surgeries than any other country in the world after Thailand. "
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Iran

Posted by: dave | Jan 13 2020 0:49 utc | 105

Great coverage as ever. The detail about the unit being an additional one is important. My guess is that they were in an unfamiliar position and did not have a clear sense of orientation in relation to the airport. Nor were they properly integrated into communications networks. This meant the operator was left out on his own at the crucial point.

My analysis can be found here.

https://www.avoidingcatastrophe.com/home/don-t-blame-the-frontline-operator

Posted by: Editor | Jan 13 2020 0:50 utc | 106

@ 105 dave.. post the anti iranian stuff on the open threads... it's a courtesy to keep the thread in context..thanks.

Posted by: james | Jan 13 2020 0:52 utc | 107

Iran needs to determine why the coms were down. No matter what sort of coms hook a unit into a network, they can all go down at some point. Soviet and all Russian systems are made so they can operate stand alone for this very reason. They lost communication at a critical moment. Radio coms is not the issue. It doesn't matter if its radio or optic fiber, they can all go down. That needs to be investigated and find why it went down.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 1:09 utc | 108

Flight recorders aree going to Ukraine.

"Flight recorders of the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) plane shot down by the Iranian military near Tehran will be decoded in Ukraine. "Accident @Boeing #737 UR-PSR @fly_uia on 08/01/20 / @BEA_Aero confirms it will attend the CVR & FDR technical work that will be done in #Ukraine / Any communication on the timeline & investigation progress is the responsibility of Iran's AAIB authorities," Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority wrote on Twitter on January 11, 2020. ..."

Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/world/10826624-flight-recorders-of-uia-s-plane-shot-down-in-iran-to-be-decoded-in-ukraine.html

kjhaze


Posted by: kjhaze | Jan 13 2020 1:34 utc | 109

The Israelis fooled Syrian air defense into shooting down that Russian intel plane. One has to wonder whether cyberwarfare played a role.

Posted by: lysias | Jan 13 2020 1:37 utc | 110

Since many of the comments, and the main post itself, places a big emphasis on the necessity and failure of "closing Iranian air-space," I would like to play devil's advocate to balance it out. Grounding all commercial flights costs money and is a very serious step, although it appears that they did so for a short time in the immediate aftermath of their ballistic missile launch. A more viable scenario is additional safety oriented airspace restrictions and raising the air-threat level, which serves an advisory capacity. After all, civilian travelers, crew and air-travel companies also share in the responsibility when choosing to fly through dangerous airspace, provided that they are made aware of the potential hazards involved.

The comparison to MH17 isn't very appropriate, since that plane was never under any threat on take-off from Kiev and would, presumably, have reached its destination safely if it followed the same, albeit less efficient, route that it had flown previously, skirting the combat-zone. I no longer recall whether Kiev had given air-traffic express permission to resume flights through separatist territory, whether it had ever strictly forbidden such air-traffic previously or if it had been left to air-travel companies to decide. I do remember the air-traffic pattern that became the norm after Ukraine lost a few high-flying transport planes, with planes bypassing the dangerous air-space in question, and MH17 breaking that pattern once by attempting to fly straight through.

I'm sure nobody is arguing for closing Iranian air-space until the threat of American retaliation is gone completely, since presumably such a threat will remain until some very dramatic changes occur in global politics. Ergo, a different metric needs to be employed for when it's absolutely crucial to ground civilian air-traffic, either related to time or hinged on combat-readiness level. I would argue that even during the highest level of combat readiness, the decision to ground air-traffic will by necessity be situational, since the threat assessment may change at a moment's notice and in response to all manner of events, such as threats issued by the state dept, and air-traffic will not be able to adapt to such a regimen. A badly implemented clear-skies policy may in fact leave civilian air-traffic in the air during periods of heightened tensions, and AA is more likely to fire at friendlies due to the false sense of security of the same clear-skies policy.

Finally, commercial flights in Iranian air-space are arguably safer from American retaliatory strikes, than the civilians walking around on the ground. The notion that Iran was using the normal operation of its airports as some human shield against attacks appears counter-intuitive, since no ground-target can be presumed safe from retaliation, including UNESCO certified heritage. The more people in the air, the better.

Posted by: Skiffer | Jan 13 2020 1:38 utc | 111

Its beyond any doubt that the incident would not have taken place had the US not taken out Soleimani and launched more strikes on Iranian personnel and PMF forces of late and threatened to destroy 53 targets in Iran if any response was given.

I use the word incident, still, rather than accident because I remain suspicious, close to assuming there is much more to the story than we have been made aware.

The warning notice given to the US by Iran for the missile attack on the US base is curious and yet to be fully understood.

For the incident to occur, a series of highly unlikely mistakes needed to be made in a perfect storm. Which can happen of course during warfare, yet still, for the Iranian defences to have mistaken that civilian airliner for an enemy plane - which would have been tracked from hundreds of miles away unless using incredible stealth - the checks made and all failed…the turning of the plane AFTER or BEFORE being hit by a missile which would usually destroy the plane mid-air…there are a lot of variables that were extreme in their apparent failure.

For me, the most prominent factor in this incident is by far the decision to continue to allow any flights, let alone civilian flights, to continue in a period when Iran were expecting/ or knew there were foreign military coming in to attack. This is the largest failure of all, and rather suspicious. And some of the Iranian output smacks of confusion, not deceit, not manipulation of the facts but incredulous yet forced to use all they know which is their own culpability.

Western leader’s responses have seemed to me wholly unsurprised by the incident, timing of new sanctions…Trump especially, who appeared even slightly uncomfortable, even cowed, glimmer of disquiet…I had the brief thought when watching his speech that perhaps, he knew his crowd had a hand in this, and this was something which had perhaps chilled him, subdued him slightly. Brief flicker of something odd in his eyes and words and tone. The rest seemed incredibly well prepared and confident of their accusations, and my only assumption was that they must have had a perfect view, with all the data, radar images, perhaps even perfect footage, everything…and if so, perhaps they were in position to do so, intentionally. Yet the US have a crystal clear view of the whole region…(they would have seen, for example, mega convoys of toyotas with machine guns flooding across Syria when ISIS magically appeared, though left them alone)

Israeli military have long demonstrated efficacy in sabotage from within Iran, in the highest of places…stuxnet, nuclear scientists murdered for example. It would be naive not to ponder their potential involvement, especially given they have perhaps the most to lose if Iran was drawn into a serious strike back against the empire (Iran had said that any further escalation would result in an attack on Israel). They also have a staggering technological level as do the US. Well beyond my ken to understand. And if there was a way to sabotage the plane, the missile systems, the Iranian radar and defence system, they would assuredly be a prime suspect.

We are talking about the most powerful, extensive and high tech military machine ever devised on Earth, and when that is directed against a country with barely a slither of the same resources, and therefore technology and ability to counter, such considerations seem logical to ponder.

A perfect storm of catastrophic failures may well be the simple truth. And yet the timing, the impact, the motive, the immense power of the enemies Iran are facing and the series of catastrophic failures which came together to cause this horrorshow, all lead me to suspect more than we have been told.

The question is…if Israel/US could create the conditions for the catastrophic failures, with more than plausible deniability, and the result being Iran cowed, and unable to blame anyone but themselves…would the Israeli/US foe do such a thing? My inkling is…without any doubt whatsoever.

Remember MH370…the plane that simply vanished. And also MH17, which was never truly explained with credible evidence, whether from the Russian side nor the Ukranian (US vassal) side.

In the fog of war, its always the innocent who suffer the most. Catastrophic failures all combining in one horrific period by incompetence or design, the result remains a truly heartbreaking loss of life which I would like to belief could give some in places of authority pause for thought and the possibility to reconsider their current trajectory towards yet more needless brutality and misery.

Posted by: Johan Nagel | Jan 13 2020 1:40 utc | 112

@ Dave 105

Bravo dave. The sex change operation is the reason the plane was shut down. Finally a sensible post.

Posted by: Alpi | Jan 13 2020 1:44 utc | 113

@pos @88

The analysis that you post has some problems. Jonathan W @95 and LarryMorgan @101 have pointed out some of them.

But it also provides some useful info, such as that the mountainous terrain meant that the Tor radar would not have seen the plane until it got high enough.

And strangely, the plane's transponder stopped transmitting just before the plane becomes visible to the air defense operators!

If, for argument's sake, someone wanted to ensure that the plane's transponder would fail at a certain moment, wouldn't they have to put a device on board that did that?

<> <> <> <> <> <>

The mysterious termination of transponder signal seems a lot like Epstein deciding to kill himself in the middle of the night soon after guards mysteriously decide to stop checking on him for several hours. As though he were clairvoyant. LOL.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 1:58 utc | 114

@34

That is why I posted it. Maybe there is a good explanation. Corrupt ads-b data due to the strike? EW ? Electronics bay and standby power (batteries) are forward, but gps is overhead. Would not be ground receiver error. Date stamps on replay seem a minute or so behind (later) , but last signal is around 2:48 not 2:44 (then minus the difference).

I don't know. Last position from screen shot of replay is much further out than granular data from csv file downloaded from flightradar, which stops 2:44

https://ibb.co/q0QZM70

@95 I don't know, I don't trust bellingcat or nyt though.

Posted by: @34@95 | Jan 13 2020 2:05 utc | 115

@114 jackrabbit.. i just don't trust much of anything off medium... it seems like a propaganda outlet for the most part...

Posted by: james | Jan 13 2020 2:10 utc | 116

@34@95 @115

I'm thinking that the extended location info might be due to adding info from radar systems (airport radar).

But what they show us as ads-b is *just* ads-b.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 2:14 utc | 117

james @116

Yeah, but the terrain info seems useful - and raises very troubling questions about timing of the end of transponder signal (an occurance which the Medium post acknowledges!).

See my comment @114.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 2:16 utc | 118

There are three major military airbases just a few miles east of where the Ukrainian Air Liner was shot down. These military sites are some of the most important bases Iran has. If a full scale war broke out they would be among the first targets.

The area is bristling with air defense units, s-300/400, Khordad, Bavar 373 along with shorter range and point defense systems like Pantsir and Tor.

As b states, Tor radar is very localized, providing altitude, direction of travel and velocity data, but does not provide a clear picture of the target like a s-400 battalion would. It is a last line of defense targeting incoming missiles and bombs, and is geared to have a rapid reaction time rather than a comprehensive targeting picture.

Cruise missiles launched against the military air bases could take similar path, over Tehran traveling south to north. If Flight 752 did make a turn to the east it'd be an easy mistake to make, especially if some of their radars were spoofed making it look like cruise missiles had been launched from the Persian Gulf region.

Posted by: Jason | Jan 13 2020 2:17 utc | 119

Petri Krohn @8

Israel have the codes to the Tor system so it could well have been Israel that launched the missiles. Iran might have considered that it was best to accept responsibility than to revel that an important part of their defence system is compromised.

The launch of the missile and downing of PS752 would serve as a warning to Iran, letting them know that their defences are compromised and posing the question: "Are you sure you want to do this?"

Posted by: ADKC | Jan 13 2020 2:54 utc | 120

@ Lysias 110

Russian military site Avia.pro cited by this article at Globalresearch.ca and first reported in Corriere PL (Italian)

[.]According to data from Pentagon-related sources, several U.S. military planes were observed in the sky in the vicinity of Iran’s airspace, just at the time of the Boeing’s flight departure.

Anomalies were observed on Iran’s radar system, probably due to a cyber attack.

The civilian plane was therefore confused with a fighter plane heading directly for a military target.

“Since the pilot made a U-turn, it is very likely that the US cyber attack had also focused on the navigation system of the Ukrainian Boeing. This is not the first time that Americans have done this type of action, ” said Avia.pro.

In addition, a member of the Security and Defense Committee of the Russian Duma accused the provocative US measures against Iran of having been the cause of the Ukrainian plane crash.

Posted by: Likklemore | Jan 13 2020 3:27 utc | 121

It is easy for one to make comments and judgements. But no westerner knows what it is to live in war time situations. Even when ISIS was attacking, is not the same level as Israeli hit and runs.. When the US is threatening you and move assets to attack you, the situation is a whole another ball game. The US also wants to shut down the Iranian economy, giving into that paranoia and shutting whole swaths of the economy because the US will attack any movement now is tantamount to defeat without even being shot at, even though that shot might come at any movement. Iran also went through a decade of Iraqi attacks and expecting WMD's to be dropped at any moment. I am not sure anyone here can know what all this is like when they make comments.

I dont blame the Iranians here at all.. I fully blame Israel and the US. I dont care what the facts are.. The reason this happened is only because of what the US and Israel did. And they are still at it even after all this. At the same time, people need to take responsibility and act appropriately. The Pilot made a judgement error.. He must have known US planes were all around him since there are US bases all around Iran. Leaving his plane on the ground most likely means its loss the next day. But many pilots make this mistake of trying to save his plane instead of his life and in this case the lives of hundreds of passengers, but why the passengers also wanting to take risks? Not like they did not know what was going on and the plane was over booked and over loaded with everyone wanting to leave the sinking ship before any holes had even appeared.. The pilot above all else bears the cost here. Just like the captain of the titanic.. This is also far different that MH17 where the pilot knew there were risks but it was low, like flying in Syria.. the risk here was very high of the plane even being shot down by US itself let alone Iran.

Posted by: Igor Bundy | Jan 13 2020 4:58 utc | 122

Saker has an analysis up where he badically concludes it does not reflect very well on the readiness and aptitude of Iranian AA systems/communication.

As an natural American, I find saker to be more or less balanced, but, perhaps as with b's bar here, in times of peace, I don't think I would be dropping in as much. Nothing personal, and I value b's contribution to covering the Syrian conflict as one of the true forces of good that legitimately helped the SAA thwart the jihadis. Just as with the saker, we owe them our gratitude.

However, the saker's fanyboyism and cheerleading for Iran, sometimes at the expense of the truth and full of hyperbole, leads me to take him with a grain of salt.

What was funny is that on his comment board, a poster was blaming the Iranian government for the stampeding deaths during Gen. Soleimani's funeral.

The saker literally replies: "Actually, only 30+ deaths in a march of 5 million is some pretty damn good crowd control." It's a funny and absurd statement and you could challenge it to the cows come home, but best to let it lay.

Posted by: NemesisCalling | Jan 13 2020 6:01 utc | 123

You hit it bang on the nail, B, I agree with every word. The US were interfering with the Iranian air defence radars and creating phantom cruise missile signals, and they were most probably jamming air defence radio communications.

After the incident the US knew exactly what had happened, they new exactly that THEY had caused the Iranians to shoot down the missile, and the celebrated that fact and tried to exploit it to precipitate regime change as they always want to do.

The criminal and terrorist US regime is directly respinsible for 176 innocent deaths.

As you say, the Iranian response in taking responsibility is the correct thing to do in public relations terms, it is NOT what the US wants them to do. The US wants Iran to deny all responsibility and try to cover it up - as the US themselves ALWAYS do - which would provide ample opportunities for the US to create cracks in public perception and try to sow discord - nothing could be better for the US to undermine the Iranian confidence and the initiative they gained from their attack on the US bases.

The Iranians must carefully investigate whether the US deliberately attempted to engineer the disaster. If they did have such explicit intention, it will be very difficult to find hard evidence, but they must try their best, and fully publish the results, without drawing any premature conclusions. If they find any evidence suggestive of the US intention to engineer an incident, they must take it to the UN Security Counsel and publicly demand reparations from the US. If not, then they will probably have to pay reparations to the victims and the airline - but subject to a realistic overall assessment of the situation.

Posted by: BM | Jan 13 2020 7:04 utc | 124

Upon reading this opinion, I thought: Yes! THANK-YOU! YOU'RE SO RIGHT!

But after reading the comments, a different picture started to form in my mind's eye.

A) Of course, IF, the incident happened that way your explanation is completely logical.

B) But, what if none of this is what it appears to be as some here alluded to.

Whether it's A) or B), this does not change.:

It is sad that this incident happened and that 176 lost their life. But if one wants to find a person guilty for it one must look for the person who caused the whole situation. That person is not the lowly sergeant who pressed the button. That person is U.S. President Donald Trump.

I started to see another picture emerge when I read this:

What was it that differentiated this plane from the others on his radar screen. From the presentation, his unit was sent to the position at midnight or 00.00hrs The Ukrainian flight was the eighth flight out after that time. Peter AU1 @26

Indeed. If we choose theory B) it's a remarkable irony that the Airline was Ukrainian and the majority of the passengers were Iranian. UKRAINIANS and Iranians - previously not very sympathetic towards Trump, and now...?

Soon after, we have throngs of protesters in Iran not stepping on the American and Israeli flag, but no Americans or Israelis were on that flight. How lucky for them! But is all this merely about good luck and bad luck and a poor missile operator caught in a catch 22 who reacted as trained?

And: (cit. fr. BusinessInsider)

In a statement, the FAA said it was prohibiting US civil aviation operators from flying over airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

It warned of "potential for miscalculation or mis-identification" for civilian aircraft, according to Associated Press.

Okay, so U.S. is protecting its own from "miscalculation". How nice.

So, someone here stated that Russia gave Iran's missile defense codes to Israel. BAD RUSSIA or BAD ISRAEL if it's just psy-ops, but, I trust none.

And Jr stated that the Boeing's transponder stopped functioning BEFORE the missile struck.

Another comment mentioned that someone in the IRGC could be a collaborator.

So, what if: i) there is a mole in the IRGC; and/or what if: ii) the U.S. had a way of intercepting both the Boeing's transponder and navigation equipment and affecting the missile unit's radar?

Cui bono?

Not grounding commercial flights was a huge mistake that was ripe for false flag exploitation and/or a fatal mistake whichever theory you choose to believe A) OR B). Imp. Question: whose decision was it not to ground flights? Can someone be that stupid?

It's just so convenient the way things turned out: the whole world is angry with Iran's leaders now, Trump is suddenly the champion of the Iranian people, yes, the same Iranians that were included in his Muslim ban, not to mention suffering his sanctions, but after this, suddenly, they don't step on U.S./Israeli flags at protests, (who organized the protests?) and Ukraine figures in the equation, too. Ukraine AGAIN. Now that's really ironic!

It couldn't appear more staged if it were staged, or is Iran REALLY that unlucky?

Call me very SKEPTICAL.

Posted by: Circe | Jan 13 2020 7:50 utc | 125

To all: 10 seconds...

is the time the local in-charge had to decide to fire...or not.
If he had certainty the incoming air-object was a normal commercial flight, he would not hesitate to let it pass.

He obviously had conflicting inputs [data]on which to decide...and 10 seconds. Consider that an incoming explosive device could wipe-out a vital target he was sworn to protect...vital, not merely one replaceable VIP person.

Now consider 30-45 seconds as the time in which a decision must be made when an incoming IRBM is launched right on your nation's immediate border...is it nuke armed? an electronic artifact? Are there other launches and this may be freak launch-in-error? ...can you communicate to get authorization to start WW3? at midnight? in 45 secs?

Prior to a one-time 650-ton bridge-crane lift, so there was much tension, I blew the whistle on a small 30-ton lift that endangered important [but out-of-service] E-grid equipment. I had just taken over from a mate who was re-positioned. He genned me in not 20 seconds before rushing off. The lift began and suddenly involved a new factor that had not been planned; only few seconds to decide to stop or not. In retrospect, mine was the correct action, but I caught management-hell from some who never saw what I saw. I did not get fired bec there would then be a discovery action and my muchbetters would have been made wrong.

Later, it surprised me how much calculation a mere wage-slave did in those few seconds to decide.

Posted by: chu teh | Jan 13 2020 8:05 utc | 126

NemesisCalling123

A stampede breaking out in a crowd of over a million is not the Iranian government's damn fault! They had Emergency units on standby, fyi.

You are a bootlicking Trumper, and like Zionist Trump you could give a damn about Iranians, the murder of Soleimani or rescuing Iran from the hell Trump unleashed on it! Not finding kinship for your Trump demigod cult anymore? What a pity!...NOT.

Sayonara.

Posted by: Circe | Jan 13 2020 8:18 utc | 127

The political level decided that by leaving the airspace open and by showing normalcy it would further its strategic objective. Closing the airspace would have allowed the U.S. to claim that Iran is fearing its response and that it had shown weakness. The decision to not close the airspace was, I believe, strategically correct. But it had tactical costs which turned out to be high...

Iran's strategic intent is to withstand U.S. pressure and to show defiance. Closing the airspace would have contradicted that objective.

For starters this sounds like post hoc special pleading to try to make facts (the Iranian failure to close the airspace) and seeming facts (the Iranian account of the crash) square with preconceived notions (that the Iranians are much smarter than the US leadership, a notion which seems to be contradicted by these facts). So far as I saw, no one here was arguing this "strategic" justification for not closing the airspace before the Iranian acceptance of blame.

But what's most bizarre about this post and those who agree with its logic is how they impute to the Iranian leadership the same cynical psychopathy regarding civilian human life as we consider typical of the Western and Zionist governments. And this is after all these months and years of hearing how the Iranian leadership culture is so different from that of the US.

Perhaps some of our fair-weather anti-imperialists aren't so free of the Western psychosis as they imagine, if their immediate fallback is to say in effect, "the Iranian leadership is no better than or different from that of the US."

As for the notion that closing the airspace would somehow have made the Iranians look weak, I find that incomprehensible. Who other than someone already rabid with anti-Iran derangement would take such airspace closure as anything but the rational and prudent thing to do under the circumstances? What rational person who cares about the safety of civilians wouldn't agree, "Of course you do that in order to safeguard civilian lives."

I don't know what happened to the plane. The one thing I've been certain of from the start is that letting civilian traffic continue during the most acute crisis hours was a major blunder. I and many others have called it stupid. And the IRCG thought it was stupid not to close the airport. How bizarre to see some people here saying "It wasn't stupid, it was deliberate US-type psychopathy, and that was the right thing to do!"

Well, I do concede that the fact that the leadership (who refused to shut down the airspace) is letting the IRCG (who wanted to shut down the airspace) publicly take the blame does support the contention that this leadership is similar to that of the US.

Iran certainly has bungled the propaganda war so far. The very existence of this crash (objectively speaking, a mere factoid amid the recent escalation and acceleration of the great arc of US imperialistic aggression and the resistance to it) has been a tremendous distraction from the recent events of the real war. Nothing Iran could have said would have been likely to prevail in the West against the West's propaganda machine. (Iran's target audience there must be the portion of the Western public allegedly still rational about things.) Even a smoking gun proving the US itself shot the plane down or planted a bomb would go nowhere in the short run. The fact of the crash, and especially Iran's anguish-toned acceptance of blame, can only demoralize their own supporters while encouraging the Western liars and aggressors.

Therefore, since Iran couldn't win if something bad happened to a civilian airliner, it was all the more strategically and tactically (PR-wise) important to ensure no such thing happened. They should have shut down civilian air travel during the most acute crisis hours. That's the only thing which would have made sense, both from the perspective of public perception and from the perspective of wanting to keep civilians safe.

Posted by: Russ | Jan 13 2020 8:28 utc | 128


Like Jackrabbit and others here, I've pointed out that the fact that the transponder was off 30 seconds prior to the actual strike is clue for understanding what was going on. It explains the hasty reaction of the TOR operator, all of a sudden seeing an unidentified blip on the radar screen heading to the military base.

But what caused the outage of the transponder? In reference to Jackrabbit #90, my preferred view is that the aircraft was sabotaged in advance, at the airport. The Iranian authorities say the flight recorders are so heavily damaged that they need special counsel by extern specialists from France or UK to extract data. These devices are supposed to resist heavy crashes and fire, aren't they? So I'm speculating that if an explosive device was smuggled onto the plane, they placed it right near the flight recorders.

Anyway, the deciphering of the flight recorders could answer many questions that arosed here. I'm looking forward to it.

Posted by: mk | Jan 13 2020 9:08 utc | 129

For the people saying that civilian traffic should have been closed, how would this work in practice?
1) When do you close it? (Enemy plane 100 miles away? Missile inbound in the general direction? Strange blip on radar? Trump tweets?)
2) For how long? A few hours, days?
3) What do you do if the enemy just provokes you into shutting down the airport (constant fake attacks)?
4) Where do you send the planes that are in the air (if it happens a few times a day)?
5) What about a cruise missiles, the one that the SAM operator most likely thought it saw? If they are flying really low no advance warning would be issued, so the airport would be impossible to be closed on time. The short range AA will only have a few minutes at best to detect it, track it and shoot it down, and that's it.

The reality of the modern war is that civilian traffic must remain open as long as possible, unless you want to sabotage your own economy, then the enemy just has to wait.

Posted by: Tod | Jan 13 2020 9:30 utc | 130

I posted this on another site.

I think the important question is not: Why Iranian airspace was not closed, but who gave the order to leave it open?

We don't need to look any further for motive for the zebra option (cyber attack) than what we are witnessing with the protests in Tehran railing against the government for the aìrcraft tragedy, no matter if they are instigated by anti-Iran forces or U.S.-supported MEK. Just the fact that they were given a huge cause for outrage with which to rally Iranians of all stripes against the government only days after millions took to the streets in solidarity to mourn Soleimani is the most desired ambition of Zionist U.S. at this time.

Only a tragedy of such magnitude could UNDO the damage done with the murder of a beloved hero Soleimani to the AngloZionists' advancing plan for takeover of Iran. Therein lies, motive.

And I'll add to this thread: It represents the instant fix needed before the massive outrage for Soleimani's murder started turning in the government's favor and should these protests against the aircraft tragedy evolve into the overthrow of Iran's government, this is more than the Trump cabal could ever dream of and worth the risk of sacrificing the few to get the entire country.

Think, in 2017, Trump was banning Iranians from entering the country; his sanctions are hurting Iranians severely, and now he's tweeting support for Iranians in Farsi???

Puhlease! This is better than the con he pulled on populists!

Posted by: Circe | Jan 13 2020 11:14 utc | 131

I don't think the solution would be to close air traffic. But since the military had reasonable concerns that there may be an imminent attack, the sensible thing to do in my opinion, would be to assign special military liaisons to every single installation used to supervise Iranian FIR. Since they were expecting an attack, there should be a military officer in the airport's control tower giving constant early warning to the air defense network, about all inbound and outbound traffic.

There is no need to be a bi-directional communication that can reveal unit positions. Just an announcement from the airport. "Outbound aircraft heading xxx, in 2 minutes". I think such an approach would have averted this incident and it is something that has to be considered in situations like these.

Posted by: Erlindur | Jan 13 2020 11:34 utc | 132

I don't blame the Iranian military for taking three days. The attitude was cooperative and honest. In order to avoid premature claims they needed to cover many angles. Three days is good. I would even say better do a full scan of the situation in order to *minimize* the risk of faulty premature claims, because new findings will still lead to adjustments to the understanding.
Problems will start when Ukraine and the west attempt to milk the incident and try to make the most of it.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Jan 13 2020 11:36 utc | 133

Smells like there was some kind of intervention, cyber or otherwise. If so it was a brilliant covert move, evil but brilliant.

Posted by: paul | Jan 13 2020 11:41 utc | 134

Russ @ 128 says:

But what's most bizarre about this post and those who agree with its logic is how they impute to the Iranian leadership the same cynical psychopathy regarding civilian human life as we consider typical of the Western and Zionist governments

well Russ, domestically, the US military is the most respected (by far) of all of America's institutions, notwithstanding the millions dead over decades of illegal wars, and the trillions unaccounted for in the bowels of DoD...

yellow ribbons, super bowl flyovers, and spontaneous applause still rule the day. you know, keeping America safe, and all that horse shit. the glibness of the narrative is depressing, and worse, pretty much guarantees that the commonly perceived finite group at the top is constantly replenished by an endless pool of sociopathic nitwits.

Posted by: john | Jan 13 2020 11:58 utc | 135

Sorry, if the Iranian defence apparatus is expecting a cruise missile attack then its obvious that the civil aviation should be stopped. Otherwise this sort of thing WILL happen, its not rocket science. I'm not a Trumpite and consider the murder of Soleimani a disaster, but Mr B seems to going a bit luvvy-duvvy in this partisanship here.
Do you think the Iranian authorities regret their decision to leave the civil aviation running? Well sure they do, but its too late to do it again.

Posted by: ramblingidiot | Jan 13 2020 12:51 utc | 136

It should be clear by now to anyone with half a brain that the U.S. is intent on Iranian regime change one way or another. To counteract this existential threat, I think its leadership needs to somehow demonstrate it has secretly developed and is in possession of multiple nuclear weapons capable of being launched by missile into the heart of the U.S. or its allies. The U.S. is playing for keeps. Iran needs to do so as well with no holds barred.

Posted by: Carciofi | Jan 13 2020 13:14 utc | 137

I'm probably something here that other posters are aware of. Why were there so many Canadians on this flight? There were 63 Canadians and only 11 Ukrainians. Compared to the other nationals that seems like there were about 60 more Canadians than would normally be expected on a flight from Tehran to Kiev.

Perhaps it was a code-share flight via Kiev to Toronto or some such thing?

Posted by: Cornelius Pipe | Jan 13 2020 14:00 utc | 138

The Saker just wrote another fairly conciliatory explanation. I respect that. But if you really want to eliminate the wild stuff, you have to deal with this? The video that was published in the NYT, Bellingcat, etc. supposedly shows the missile flying from the east. The Iranians said it came from the north. The transponder shows the plane was flying in a straight line. In their admission of guilt, the Iranians said the plane was turning right and coming towards them. If you really really want to eliminate the wild stuff and you accept the turn, the you have two questions: If there was a hit that caused the turn why was there a hit (only to be followed by another one)? If there was a mechanical failure, why was the transponder off? If there was a failure and the transponder was off, someone might think that looks suspicious.

And another thing about the video (NYT etc.). Medium said it was taken by someone called Mr Ghraeb. I have no way of finding that piece of info anywhere else. But Ghraeb is an Arabic name. He was filming in Iran. There was also this story that the video was first shown to a Saudi station. If Ghrabe is a psedonym, why Arabic and why make is reminiscent of Abu Ghraib?


It is not the amount of speculation that is astounding. It is the lack of solid proof that is astounding. The Iraq war was prepared with satellite images. Now the only open source is the video, taken by someone everyone seems to have trouble tracking down.

Posted by: Jonathan W | Jan 13 2020 14:29 utc | 139

They should blame "intelligence" and then give the guy a medal like we did Tenet.

Posted by: Curtis | Jan 13 2020 14:37 utc | 140

I believe Iranian politic tops could have eaten their cake still having them.

Sure, they wanted to "keep skies open".
First, they could temporary close the Tehran airport do to some malfunction, pretend tower has glasses covered by black dye, or radar suddenly switched frequency to ultrasound, or something like that.
Not closing the skies over Iran, but close one airport due to some feigned random malfanction.

If even that is too much, okay, okay, okay, keep your airport opened, but, DO LIMIT the corridors. Make all planes approach and depart in two very narrowly defined lanes, with no deviation from it allowed until 100km away from Tehran. And then print the maps of those corridors and hand it to every Tor operator out there. So those would know that any missile going strictly within those corridors and in proper direction is most most probable not a missile at all.

They could both have and eat the cake. They chosen to screw up instead. This kind of hubris one might more expect form USA than from Iran. Really sad.

Posted by: Arioch | Jan 13 2020 14:39 utc | 141

I wish to get back to what PeterAU posted. The officer operating the air defense system had already seen 8 planes taking off from Tehran Airport - no incident. This means that the plane showed an unusual flight pattern which from what we know currently consisted of not climbing any longer, decreasing height instead and initiating a turn back to Tehran Airport which for a while made it appear to be headed towards the base, nose down. I read a comment, either here or somewhere else, that the BBC had reported (hidden in a longer piece) that a source at the Tehran Airport claimed there was documentation that shows the plane had a mechanical problem and the airline made the decision to have the plane fly anyway. I wonder if the investigation will give any clues to that and if so, what the chances were the machine made it back to the airport. The fact that there was no communication from the cockpit for a while may show the pilots were busy getting the situation under control.
I also wish to get back to a reason as to why Trump did not follow up on his threats, at least not "fast". Other than Israel, no other country had been informed about the plans regarding Suleimani, and Trump possibly received messages/phone calls after the Iranian strike asking to not retaliate. The fact that the airspace around Iran was busy and that some interference with electronic systems occurred showing cruise missiles or similar may show that the US were ready to take action.
There is still a possibility that the US took action in which the Ukrainian plane got involved. The recorders and black boxes are in the Ukraine now. I hope there won't be any attempts to alter the recordings and whitewash releases/information for public consumption fitting the US and so on narrative.

Posted by: E Mo Scel | Jan 13 2020 14:39 utc | 142

"That person is U.S. President Donald Trump."

"THE BUCK STOPS HERE"

Harry Truman


As important as other considerations are / maybe, there is one single action which set all the circumstances surrounding this terrible incident into motion. Donald trump trashed the legally binding JCPOA agreement. Netanyahu bragged in public that he convinced trump to do it, but it was trump's decision in the end and all of his campaign rhetoric on the agreement strongly indicates he intended to do this even before he was elected.

"As Netanyahu himself testified, he was the one who convinced Trump to withdraw from the world powers’ agreement with Tehran."

https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/01/israel-iran-us-qasem-soleimani-hassan-rouhani-assasination.html#ixzz6AvC1Eazn

https://www.timesofisrael.com/in-recording-netanyahu-boasts-israel-convinced-trump-to-quit-iran-nuclear-deal/

For barflies, twitter orators and blog participants who put the blame squarely on trump, their view has received some unexpected support from a prominent member of Canada's establishment, the CEO of Maple Leaf Foods who launched a scathing criticism of the US and trump recently and gained the attention of Bloomberg News.

“A narcissist in Washington tears world accomplishments apart; destabilizes region,” McCain said, without identifying President Donald Trump by name. “U.S. government leaders unconstrained by checks/balances, concocted an ill-conceived plan to divert focus from political woes. The world knows Iran is a dangerous state, but the world found a path to contain it.”

https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/i-am-livid-maple-leaf-foods-ceo-blasts-u-s-for-iran-s-jet-downing-1.1372793

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-13/canadian-food-giant-chief-blasts-u-s-for-iran-s-jet-downing?srnd=premium-canada

Keep your eye on the ball barflies.

Posted by: Bubbles | Jan 13 2020 14:50 utc | 143

...
They should have shut down civilian air travel during the most acute crisis hours. That's the only thing which would have made sense, both from the perspective of public perception and from the perspective of wanting to keep civilians safe.
Posted by: Russ | Jan 13 2020 8:28 utc | 128

Aren't you reading too much into b's post?
Armies, navies and air forces everywhere in the world exist in a bubble intentionally separate, and divorced from, everyday (civilian) reality. b's post was, imo, intended as a reflection of the carefully crafted and induced "Military Mindset."

The movie Full Metal Jacket delves into the de-humanising process at Boot Camp wherein clerks, postmen & plumbers have their humanity bullied out of them, and obedience bullied into them, in order to transform them into "brave" killers.
I'm not sure what goes on at Officer School but not every trainee survives the ordeal to emerge as a fully-fledged Officer.

b has graduated from military training and is therefore better qualified than pristine and angelic civilians, such as I, to speculate on the 'thinking' behind Iran's military tactics and strategies during a very real emergency.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Jan 13 2020 14:57 utc | 144

Suspicions that electronic warfare might have been involved here seem to be well-founded:


https://www.globalresearch.ca/according-to-russian-experts-the-us-bears-partial-

responsibility-for-the-human-error-which-caused-the-ukrainian-plane-crash/5700373

Russian military site Avia.pro has addressed the issue of “human error” relating to the crash of Ukraine’s Boeing 737 [departing from Tehran] on January 8, minutes after takeoff, which resulted in the death of 179 passengers and members of the crew.
Relying on military experts, the report intimates that the incident bears a canny (point by point) resemblance to the destruction of a Russian IL-20 in Latakia, Syria in September 2018. Israeli fighters, followed by Syrian missiles, used the Russian plane as a shield, even if it meant its destruction and the death of 15 passengers.


“According to experts, the US military had deliberately changed the information on the Ukrainian Boeing 737 flight, making it a real target for the Iranian air defense systems.”
• According to data from Pentagon-related sources, several U.S. military planes were observed in the sky in the vicinity of Iran’s airspace, just at the time of the Boeing’s flight departure.
• Anomalies were observed on Iran’s radar system, probably due to a cyber attack.
• The civilian plane was therefore confused with a fighter plane heading directly for a military target.
• “Since the pilot made a U-turn, it is very likely that the US cyber attack had also focused on the navigation system of the Ukrainian Boeing. This is not the first time that Americans have done this type of action, ” said Avia.pro.

The "u-turn" of the Boeing shortly after take-off was highly suspicious from the start ...

Posted by: Cassandra | Jan 13 2020 15:21 utc | 145

Maybe Russia never bragged about hacking into a foe's systems like the Americans are bragging about.
The above doesn't mean Russia couldn't have or would avoid instill an information war and induce those russian made displays in those russian made systems to believe that an aircraft, that aircraft is a target.

Americans, if they are the real and moral culprits, then so they should be offering excuses immediately and face international tribunals if the case of Murder. But we live violient times.

Remember the one downed by a BUK system in Ukraine? That was a mistake, isn't it? Then the Russian federation didn't train it's proxies how to maneuver a system like that too, if that's a case, again, in a tribunal.

Posted by: Airahaz | Jan 13 2020 15:29 utc | 146

b @ 37: A great part of the problems we're facing in the world are people like the owner of this site who sit somewhere in an appartment in a city like Hamburg and playing world strategists deciding about who has to die and where, and being proud of a higher rank military background like being an officer in the german army, the Bundeswehr. I'm from that same generation here in Germany and know: everybody with a little bit of a brain left in his head refused to become a part of that successor army of the fascist Wehrmacht, rather refused to serve there and even went to jail - like me for 9 months.

Particular idiots and mostly right wing war mongers and racists in the Bundeswehr were those who opted for the higher ranks, most of them were just fighting the lost battles of Wehrmacht in WWII again. They are indistinguishable from assholes like the Donbass killers Sergej Dubinski, the rebel commander Strelkov/Igor Girkin, Oleg Pulatow, and Leonid Kharchenko who brought down the MH17 flight and killed nearly 300 civilians.

From the words of b and many others here who pretend to be reasonable and experienced you only hear a total disregard of human lives, esp. if these belong to civilians, a disregard of any democratic procedures and people's wills and so they resemble the old Wehrmacht officier's caste as well as the Nato warmongers who they pretend to fight against.

"Shit happens" - maybe also in Hamburg


@all -Why was the Tor system placed where it was.

Bidganeh, where it was deployed to, is a strategic missile production and test area.In 2011 a large explosion occurred there, likely from Israeli sabotage. In 2018 there were (false) rumors that Iran was using the site to build intercontinental missiles.

I have now added this information to the above piece.

It was very reasonable to deploy a system to that site. Unfortunately it lacked the appropriate level of communication. But while Iran has some modern weapons most are still relatively old. Its military has to work with what it has. Not every MANPAD equipped soldier can have the full picture of the aerial situation. Shit happens.

Posted by: b | Jan 12 2020 19:37 utc | 37

Posted by: thomas | Jan 13 2020 15:41 utc | 147

@ Hoarsewhisperer 144

My understanding is that it was the field military (the IRGC) who wanted to close the airport but were overridden by the civilian leadership and top brass. So I don't see how a bubble mentality contributed to whatever happened.

At any rate I was placing no blame on the field units involved, if they really did shoot it down by mistake. My remarks were directly only at the top leadership, who I still think were negligent rather than deliberately having put civilians in danger out of some bizarrely misguided strategy.

(I probably should reiterate that I place 100% of the ultimate blame on the US. That's not mutually exclusive with Iran making mistakes, though it is incompatible with theories that posit Iran behaving with the same contempt for civilian life that the US consistently demonstrates.)

Posted by: Russ | Jan 13 2020 15:43 utc | 148

I accept the analysis that b has given.
I would add some comments that add context.
Iran has a huge oil supply (I believe it is 3-5%) and a massive nat gas supply (world's largest I believe) and yet, the country had a somewhat antiquated system (Tor), guarding an airport that feeds a city of 15 million.
How does one reconcile these 2 disparate facts?
Sanctions. The U.S. uses economic warfare, that IS what sanctions are, which is a collective punishment of a population to impose its will. Any one else think that is barbaric?
They are unable to grow their economy, buy new defense systems (I understand the S300/400 systems are extremely difficult to penetrate. If we all want peace then negating war as an option is GOOD.
I don't buy the neocohen line of crap. I want to see Pompeo and his creepy bottom, Esper, tossed to the kerb just like Bolton. It is time Trump sought advice that reflected his promise to the American people: 'an end to the endless wars'.
God bless b and any and all rational human beings.

Posted by: dorje | Jan 13 2020 15:44 utc | 149

Cornelius
Many Iranians emigrate to Canada, the number 1 country in the world to welcome migrants (usually those who have a higher education diploma), and these people were all or almost all Irano-Canadians.
But that also means that some Canadians have relatives of Iranian descent...
such as this CEO
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51095769

Posted by: Mina | Jan 13 2020 16:07 utc | 150

There is still a possibility that the US took action in which the Ukrainian plane got involved. The recorders and black boxes are in the Ukraine now. I hope there won't be any attempts to alter the recordings and whitewash releases/information for public consumption fitting the US and so on narrative.
Posted by: E Mo Scel | Jan 13 2020 14:39 utc | 142

WHAT??? Can this be confirmed? Where is your source? On the previous page someone said France refused to send the software to decode the data therefore the boxes would be/were sent to France.

It makes no sense whatsoever that Iran should allow the black boxes to go to either France or the Ukraine, where it is virtually guaranteed the data will be falsified to make it seem the Iranians had shot down the aircraft intentionally. For a start the flight path would be altered to make Iran's claim the aircraft turned towards the military installation look false. This - plus US EW - might be behind this confusion over the exact path of the aircraft, if/when/how much it turned, when it was shot, and when/why the transponder stopped. There was also the suggestion that the US EW may have changed the apparent coordinates of the plane to make it look more of a threat to the military installation.

Since the Iranians have already claimed responsibility, they have no moral obligation to send the black boxes off to be read[falsified]. Instead they should put the pressure on the French to read the data IN IRAN under Iranian supervision and under Iranian control.

Posted by: BM | Jan 13 2020 16:09 utc | 151

E Mo Scel | Jan 13 2020 14:39 utc | 142:

=
The officer operating the air defense system had already seen 8 planes taking off from Tehran Airport

Maybe not. b thinks that there may have been a change of personnel at 6am local time.

=
the BBC had reported (hidden in a longer piece) that a source at the Tehran Airport claimed there was documentation that shows the plane had a mechanical problem

I wouldn't trust BBC in this matter.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 16:18 utc | 152

Someone posted the thread on the "student" protests in Tehran which seem to have been prepared and trained and equipped long in advance, and which seem to have been anticipating that the government ould deny responsibility ("Death to Liars" chants etc).

What if the Iranians knew very well that the US caused the incident through EW opps, knew in advance of the preparations for the protests, and (falsely) claimed full responsibility for downing the plane specifically to kill the regime-change operation at its most critical stage.

Posted by: BM | Jan 13 2020 16:22 utc | 153

No one is really grappling with the heart of the issue (which I described @114).

It appears that transponder signal ended just before the plane became visible to the Tor operator.

Thus, the Tor operator couldn't identify the flight as a commercial airliner.

How likely of an occurrence it THAT? Pretty damn unlikely, I'd guess.

IMO The most logical way to ensure that a plane's transponder fails at the right time is to have a device on board or hack the airplane's systems. Thus, the fact that the airline is majority-owned by Kolomoisky becomes relevant.

<> <> <> <> <> <>

Also, while the Americans claim 2 missiles hit the plane, the Iranians have only admitted to ONE missile firing / ONE missile hit.

Two missile theory makes sense if you want to account for some event that stopped the transponder signal. But it doesn't make sense that the Tor operator would fire at all if he had received transponder info. And definitely not a second time.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 16:33 utc | 154

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 16:33 utc | 154

How often is the signal that flightradar24 relies on transmitted? Every minute? Every second? It seems relevant to the question of determining when the transponder signal actually stopped working.

Posted by: Norwegian | Jan 13 2020 16:46 utc | 155

@Norwegian every second

Posted by: dave | Jan 13 2020 16:50 utc | 156

Downing of the Ukrainian airliner was collateral damage to the US assassination of Soleimani...This is to be expected as a consequence of the US action

Posted by: john | Jan 13 2020 16:56 utc | 157

Norwegian @155: How often is the signal that flightradar24 relies on transmitted?

AFAIK it's every second.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 17:00 utc | 158

@156 , @158

Thank you. The time-gap remains then.

Posted by: Norwegian | Jan 13 2020 17:08 utc | 159

Remember 3 July 1988 – 290 lives lost and the Ron and Margie cover-up?

Reagan and (Dis)Honor - USS Vincennes Medal of Merit

Posted by: Oui | Jan 13 2020 17:09 utc | 160

Honestly this whole episode has been incredibly revealing to me..... but didn’t realize the depths of anti-American nonsense that are being reached in year 4 of the trump presidency. The compulsions to whitewash Iran here, and the need to engineer some possibilities that the us is at fault for the debacle, are no less comical than disturbing.

It’s trumps fault Iran has aging air defense systems, it’s trumps fault Iran has a hostile posture with most of the world, it’s trumps fault Iran cannot stop fundi and arming Shiite militias all over the region leading them to be a pariah state.for most of the past 40 years through a wide variety of American regimes.

Reflexive, cartoonish anti-Americanism prevails. Have fun with that, because it’s exactly this sort of arrogant, oblivious teeth-gnashing that so motivates the right and will lead to another 4 years.

Posted by: Dan | Jan 13 2020 17:23 utc | 161

‘Guerrilla Warfare At Sea’: Persian Gulf, 1987-88

The USS Stark was struck on 17 May 1987 by two Exocet anti-ship missiles during the Iran–Iraq War fired from an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1 aircraft. The Reagan administration however attributed the blame to Iran for its alleged belligerence in the underlying conflict.

MISSION USS VINCENNES TO STRAIT OF HORMUZ AND ITS VULNERABILITY

Over the objection of CNO Admiral Carlisle Trost, the Secretary of Defense approved orders sending the Aegis cruiser USS Vincennes (CG-49) on a short-notice deployment into the Persian Gulf—the first time a “latest-and-greatest” Aegis cruiser had operated in the very confined water space inside the Persian Gulf. The Aegis cruiser had by far the most sophisticated radar and anti-aircraft missile suite in the world. Vincennes had a reputation as a “robo-cruiser,” partly because of her powerful technological capability and partly because of the particularly aggressive way in which Captain William C. Rogers III handled his ship. Captain Rogers repeatedly lobbied the commander of the Joint Task Force Middle East, Rear Admiral Anthony “Tony” Less, to permit Vincennes to take a more active role than just providing air defense coverage to the southern Persian Gulf.

Capt. William C. Rogers III was decorated with the Medal of Merit upon completion of his mission. US Navy has a long line of provocative actions – see Gulf of Tonkin and Bay of Pigs.

Posted by: Oui | Jan 13 2020 17:25 utc | 162

Good evening,

We dont beleave the shoot down story. If it was a shoot down, then the debris would lay on a different site.

We explained it in two articles. We think that the Iranian government was pressured to take the blame since Boeing could not accept any technical aircraft failures any more. As soon as it wa published that this was a shoot down, the stocks went up 3 %.

The english version is avaliable upon request.

Posted by: Burger | Jan 13 2020 17:49 utc | 163

Dan @161: Honestly this whole episode has been incredibly revealing to me....

It would be if you could dislodge your head from Trump's rectum.

You completely ignore the unjustified attack on Iraqi forces that killed a couple of dozen of the PMU soldiers as well as the unjustified attack on Soleimani that also killed 7 other Iraqi and Iranian officers.

US Congressmen that have seen the intelligence say that it doesn't back up Trump's assertion that Soleimani was planning "imminent attacks".

And now Pompeo says that US will not respect the Iraqi Parliament's decision to have US troops leave the country.

These facts speak for themselves.

<> <> <> <> <>

But the context of these events is also important. USA belligerence has been on display for two decades. So it's not just Trump. The Empire is a bi-partisan project.

Here's a short summary (not a complete listing) of what Trump has done to "move the ball" for the Empire:

> coup in Bolivia;

> the seizing Venezuelan State assets (Gold, Real Estate, Oil Company, etc.);

> reneging on a peace agreement with North Korea;

> illegally occupying Syrian oil fields
Trump says that ISIS is 100% defeated, so why are they there?

> pulling out of peace treaties with Russia and Iran;

> continuing support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen;

> militarizing space.


!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 17:57 utc | 164

Hi jackrabbit, yes I’m familiar with the perspective and approach.....I spent most of the bush years in an irrational haze of hatred. We get into a position where we lose sight of people’s humanity, start assuming the worst about them at every single turn. It stops being about disagreements or differences, and turns into a situation where our opponents are *trying* to make things worse, and *want* people to suffer.

We corner ourselves into this perspective that the us and especially their hated leader is behind all negative events - as if the people of Bolivia have no agency, trump is the only obsctacle for peace with NK or Iran after 60 years of belligerence.......breaking a peace treaty with Russia? I don’t even know what’s that’s supposed to mean. That is a crazy list of events that have 1000 different causes over many decades.

It’s not even remotely rational, we’ve even flown past any points that can be argued. It’s reduced to point and laugh at this stage.

Posted by: Dan | Jan 13 2020 18:14 utc | 165

Something to keep in mind is the difference between the IRGC generals presentation and the statement of the General staff who conducted the investigation. The general, in his presentation obviously had a martyr mentality. He was willing to sacrifice himself and his reputation for his country. Where there are differences, I think it is the statement of the general staff that is more likely to be correct. They say the aircraft was hit while it was turning around.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 18:27 utc | 166

With the martyr mind set, absolutely nothing that could be considered an excuse for the action was put in the generals presentation.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 18:29 utc | 167

Not closing the airspace to civilian flights was, defacto, a stupid and irresponsible choice. The result of their posturing was a monumental tragedy and embarrassment. Your attempt to claim that it was the correct strategic choice is shameful. Meaningless posturing has never won a conflict and in this case it is hard to imagine a scenario that could have done more damage to their credibility or morale.

Posted by: Polecat | Jan 13 2020 18:40 utc | 168

Dan @165: We corner ourselves into this perspective ...

The only one cornering themselves is you.

You refuse to see that the attacks in Iraq were unjustified.

You refuse to see the Trump Administration's belligerent posture.

You refuse to see two decades of bi-partisan Empire building.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 19:10 utc | 169

UK, Ukraine, Canada, US proxy Gov Afghanistan and Sweden who seem to run Flightradar24.

“We have created this group of foreign ministers from the grieving nations. On Jan 16, we will meet in person in London to discuss the ways, including legal, how we are following this up, how we are prosecuting them (Iran),” Prystaiko said.

He said the five nations also included Canada - which had at least 57 passport holders aboard the doomed flight - Sweden, Afghanistan and a fifth country which he did not name. Canada has previously said these four countries and Britain had established a coordination group to support victims’ families.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-crash-ukraine-exclusive/grieving-nations-to-discuss-legal-action-against-iran-over-downed-airliner-ukraine-idUSKBN1ZC1A3?il=0

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 19:20 utc | 170

polecat @168

In hind sight no one denies it was a mistake not to close the airspace. But was not a black or white decision. Iran is not an active war zone - at least not yet. The missile strike had ended hours ago and there would have been hotline calls back and forth in the intervening hours. As others on this forum have pointed out (see Skiffer @111 and Nagel @112), there are other considerations that have to be weighed. The Saudis didn't close their airspace after the attack on their oil refinery. Neither has Yemen closed its airspace.

Posted by: Carciofi | Jan 13 2020 19:22 utc | 171

US picked their mark well. Mostly Iranians killed, but some of them held passports to five eyes or others that will do five eyes bidding.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 19:23 utc | 172

Pentagon and CIA always have options planned and stored. Seeing Iran on edge, air defences on alert, its just a matter of pulling up options for that setting.
Pick out the best plane to take down, hit the air defences with spoofing and cyber attack, use the data link to cause the plane some technical problems so it do something different - change flight path, turn back ect and mission accomplished.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 19:31 utc | 173

The wiki for the TOR-M1 says it has integrated IFF functionality, Identification Friend or Foe which I assume just means ADS-B receiver. From the press conference they say that all the operator has is a typical radar screen but that seems to go against the specs. However for the most part the generals description sound believable. Can imagine they'd choose to shoot down a plane containing Iranians.

Posted by: jon | Jan 13 2020 19:49 utc | 174

IFF is military. Different to civilian transponder or ADS-B
Syria were not given the Russian IFF code which is one reason they hit the Russian military transport.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 20:03 utc | 175

@BM

Posted by: BM | Jan 13 2020 16:09 utc | 151

"It makes no sense whatsoever that Iran should allow the black boxes to go to either France or the Ukraine, "

duno if this is the fact, but given the oligarchy supported faction, sometimes you have to wonder!!!


Do you know why and who was behind authorizing the commercial flight operations? thank you,

Posted by: Rd | Jan 13 2020 20:05 utc | 176

IFF can interrogate civilian ADS-B transponders.

Posted by: dave | Jan 13 2020 20:25 utc | 177

@jon No i cannot understand why you would choose to shoot down an airliner, it is not the first time the operator saw a blip on the radar screen that night or in his lifetime.
These things can be hacked and spoofed,modern systems and certainly old systems.

Posted by: dave | Jan 13 2020 20:31 utc | 178

Via Suter, the US has the capability to monitor what another country’s radar operators can see, take control of their networks and direct their sensors and invade links to time-critical targets such as ballistic missile launchers and mobile SAMs
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suter_(computer_program)

Current Suter ELINT systems can secretly invade and control an enemy’s air defense radar systems, move their sensors and create a blind spot, show false air traffic screens, including showing false screens with unidentified aircraft coming at them.
http://mil-embedded.com/guest-blogs/sixth-generation-warfare-manipulating-space-and-time/

US struck Iranian military computers this week
https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2019/06/23/us-struck-iranian-military-computers-this-week/

Posted by: dave | Jan 13 2020 20:34 utc | 179

If the following article is correct, the UIA is in trouble in terms of responsibility and liability. The article in Southfront says that "the preflight inspection checklist was not signed by Iranian airport engineers, but the Ukrainian side insisted to fly at its own risk and responsibility." The UIA is liable up to about a quarter of a million dollars per passenger unless its negligence can be shown, in which case sky's the limit. That would bankrupt the airline no doubt.

It is therefore surprising (or maybe not) to read this defiant piece in Debkafile

Five countries whose nationals died in Iran’s accidental downing last week of a Ukrainian passenger liner, killing all 176 aboard, meet on Thursday to discuss possible legal action against Iran. They include Canada, the UK and Ukraine, whose foreign ministers meet in London.

Posted by: Jonathan W | Jan 13 2020 20:58 utc | 180

dave 176

Looks like you are right. There seems to be something with the codes though. In my reading from when the Russian transport was shot down, Russia did not let any other country to its military transponder code.
Wikipedia - "Despite the name, IFF can only positively identify friendly targets, not hostile ones.[1][2][3][4] If an IFF interrogation receives no reply or an invalid reply, the object cannot be identified as friendly, but is not positively identified as foe; it may, for instance, be a friendly aircraft with an inoperative or malfunctioning transponder. There are in addition many reasons that friendly aircraft may not properly reply to IFF."

What would be identified as a friendly in Iran airspace at a time like that. US usualy operates, in name at least as a coalition. It would not be adverse to using code asigned to civilian aircraft to break through enemy defence. In such a situation could Ukraine and other US allied states be considered a friendly. Then there are also the problems of an aircraft that may be a neutral making an unexpected manoeuver or problems with transponder.

But whatever occurred, the Tor radar saw it as a possible threat. With communication down, the commander of the unit had to make a decision.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 21:00 utc | 181

Jonathan W 179

That report is in Reuters which I linked to in one of these threads.
Five eyes and US vassals. UK, Canada, Ukraine, Afghan puppet government, and Sweden.

This was well planned. Five eyes were blasting out the narrative early on. I new it was another MH17 when I heard the narrative repeated ad nauseum on oz radio on the thursday or friday when Iran government still thought it had come down due to technical problems.
They picked an aircraft with a lot of five eyes passport holders.

Fucking nice how our five eye governments are always looking out for our welfare in five eyes lands.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 21:08 utc | 182


@Peter

Read my links in my previous comment, IRGC air defenses have been hacked and fake traffic information had been injected in their radar including a phantom cruise missiles, that is why IRGC head said they had info cruise missiles were incoming.

Posted by: dave | Jan 13 2020 21:15 utc | 183

Apologies for not directing specific comments at prior posts mentioning them or providing links to technical details - I do read every detail of b's posts and everyone's replies, but am short on time right now.

TOR-M1 has two radars. One curved ribs long-range (24km) spinny one for target acquisition (TAR) and one big square flat one on the front of the 'turret' for fine tracking a designated target (12km, 0 - 60 degrees of elevation). For Alert 3, the TOR would have been in auto-acquisition/designation and auto-tracking.

A computer considers data from the TAR and designates targets by general type - precision guided bomb/cruise missile, aircraft, helicopter and unidentified. It also classifies them in IFF terms: friendly, foe or unknown. The TOR operator still has to push a button to actually fire the missile.

At this point, it matters whether or not the TOR is digitally communicating with the rest of a layered AD system. Longer-range radars at other AD sites theoretically should have seen anything that is approaching the edge of the TORs radar view and already designated everything. Operators at the battalion or regiment level are the ones that should be watching civilian aircraft and ADS-B. They're the ones that communicate with civilian air traffic controllers. In an integrated environment, neither the TOR operator nor the TAR computer should be surprised by the appearance of an unidentified, undesignated target. They shouldn't have to worry about looking up takeoff/departure times of ANY commerical flights. They wouldn't have time to do that with one target. And the TOR does not have an ADS-B receiver, nor does it have ADS-A,C (radar queried ADS request).

TOR main operator console

Close-up view of the TAR screen

You'll notice no flight numbers or other ADS data - there is none (unless already added by someone else on the AD network)

The TAR computer's job is to prioritize threatening targets - either those fed to it by the network, or those it discovers and designates itself. If it sees an otherwise unidentified target entering its radar view, it will 1) broadcast an IFF query, and 2) use its own internal algorithms (range, speed, altitude, maneuvering) to classify the general target type. Those independently-detected targets will be merged with anything that comes from the battery or higher-level AD networks and prioritized.

If the TOR is in auto-track, the turret will spin to point the targeting radar in the direction of the highest priority target (assuming there is even one to be engaged). The tracking radar does fine-positioning for target tracking and for guiding any missile fired at the target.

Two big issues:

The IRCG Air Defense general said the unit was dispatched at 00:00 and ready for operation. I'm interpreting that as 'assigned to a location' and then readied for operation. In the briefing, the general seemed to be referring to its state just prior to the missile launch. It may not have arrived, been set up/calibrated/whatever and had all the communications with a battery or brigade established.

1) The general meant UCT, not local. So the 'times' are 00:00 AM UCT assigned and 02:42 AM UCT departure. That's 03:30 AM (Tehran local) assignment and 06:12 AM (Tehran local) departure The previous last flights over that same area from IKA airport were an hour before PS were two flights to Istanbhul at 01:37 and 01:47. I don't think that TOR crew ever saw what FlightRadar24 first said in this diagram from Twitter (they had UCT and local times mixed up)

The TOR did not attempt to target or engage either of those. Despite claims, the airspace over *any* military installations in that area are not, nor have been restricted. That's a normal departure route for IKA departures. Either the TOR was not set up and operating by 01:47, or it was but the AD network had those flights designated as friendly commercial aircraft. Nothing for the main operator to give a second thought, and he didn't have to check any commercial schedules or listen to ATC. There are other airports in/around Tehran whose departing aircraft are climbing near that point. The TOR operator isn't responsible for figuring that out.

2) Protect the donut hole: The TOR operator was also probably trained that during any massive US attack, the first thing that will be taken out are the AD system and command centers. He was probably more worried about the TOR unit being specifically targeted than the missile factory - at least initially. One method of attacking a stand-alone TOR is by the 30° cone of engagement blindness directly above it. The TORs acquisition radar can see the whole sky, but not the (second) missile targeting (engagement) radar.

The TOR's engagement radar only works within a view of 60° of elevation. If you're expecting a top attack from missiles, you can adjust it instead to the high position to cover from 30° to 90° of elevation, but then you can't engage anything below 30°. In either case, you can see the incoming threat on radar right up until it hits you, but you can't do anything about it if it's in the engagement radar's blind zone. That's one of the reasons a TOR battery consists of 4 units. Two can be used for high engagement, and two for low engagement.

Cruise missiles are a particular threat to stand-alone TOR. Is it set up for high engagement? Terrain follow until you hit it. Se for low engagement? Terrain follow, hiding as long as possible - nearly to the edge of the TORs radar range, then climb above its missile engagement envelope and drop down the donut hole of blindness to destroy it from a near-vertical terminal attack.

So, half-asleep yet paranoid and probably poorly-briefed crew new to that location, finally gets TOR set up and is then surprised by the thing coming to life, spinning around and unexpectedly auto-tracking a threat. One coming directly for at it and climbing at the outer edge of its radar range. Who cares about the missile complex. The TOR is telling the operators that something behaving like a cruise missile has just appeared from behind terrain, is climbing pretty fast and performed a slight, unexpected turn directly toward them. If that's the first IKA departure they've actually seen on radar, then they probably wouldn't even consider that possibility. That's why I think they hadn't been operating until then.

Red lights blinking, horns going off. Operator:"A cruise missile? WTF? Let's call brigade and find out what the hell is going on. Hey, the encrypted radio is dead... no data link to battery command. NOW what?"

Ten seconds before it will be too late (too close, too high) to fire at/destroy a US Tomahawk coming down the donut hole and into the operator's turret hatch. No contact or data from either battery, brigade or regimental AD. Did the US wipe them out first? Well, I know what I would do in that situation.

Posted by: PavewayIV | Jan 13 2020 21:16 utc | 184

Jackrabbit @ 154:

"... Also, while the Americans claim 2 missiles hit the plane, the Iranians have only admitted to ONE missile firing / ONE missile hit.

Two missile theory makes sense if you want to account for some event that stopped the transponder signal. But it doesn't make sense that the Tor operator would fire at all if he had received transponder info. And definitely not a second time ..."

A missile fired from another direction (a non-Iranian one) travelling in the direction of or towards the UIA passenger jet that stops its transponder signal might make sense.

Posted by: Jen | Jan 13 2020 21:20 utc | 185

Carciofi @171

b states in the article, "The decision to not close the airspace was, I believe, strategically correct. But it had tactical costs which turned out to be high." That is what prompted my comment. That to me sounds like a hindsight denial that it was a mistake to not close the airspace. That tactical choice resulted in a strategic disaster, so I was disappointed to read that quote. Much respect to b, but his (fair) impartiality is tainting his view here. You state that Iran is not a war zone, that may be true in a very narrow literal sense, but it seems like weak cover for an awful decision. The U.S. made multiple threats of a massive response to any attack, the article itself reports multiple warnings of U.S. cruise missiles inbound and the defense units were at their highest alert level. Honestly, what about this situation doesn't scream 'war zone'? They believed missiles were in the air that they would have to respond to! Nagel writes, "The question is…if Israel/US could create the conditions for the catastrophic failures, with more than plausible deniability, and the result being Iran cowed, and unable to blame anyone but themselves…would the Israeli/US foe do such a thing? My inkling is…without any doubt whatsoever.", and I completely agree with him. However, if one takes this position it is even more imperative that civilian flights be grounded in such situations. How could you allow them to fly, while believing that your enemy has the ability to trick you into shooting them down, thereby destroying your morale/strategic political position? The incident in Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen are not comparable and beside the fact.

Posted by: Polecat | Jan 13 2020 21:23 utc | 186

@PavewayIV You are focusing only on the single Tor. It is the complete Integrated Air Defenses of the IRGC that detected multiple cruise missiles launches and because cruise missiles hug the terrain you cannot track them on radar until the very last moment, the target (tor) had to react real quick. The Integrated Air Defenses had been hacked and injected with fake data, that is why they were on the highest alert level while the government had American reassurances of no retaliation, but the Americans did fake cruise missile launches to provoke the Iranians (IRGC) into making a fatal mistake (americans knew their airspace was open).

Posted by: dave | Jan 13 2020 21:27 utc | 187

Dave "The Integrated Air Defenses had been hacked and injected with fake data, that is why they were on the highest alert level while the government had American reassurances of no retaliation, but the Americans did fake cruise missile launches to provoke the Iranians (IRGC) into making a fatal mistake (americans knew their airspace was open)."

That has been my thought. Trump said he had 52 options for striking back at Iran. He said cultural sites which was most likely part of the strategy of setting Iran up for the next hit.
Having Iran down a civilian aircraft was no doubt one of those options that were put together before the Soleimani hit. The soleimani hit and the threats designed to open up Iran for another hit, like a boxer working combinations. Seeing civilian airspace was still open over Iran with air defences on high alert, conditions were perfect for that option.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 13 2020 21:42 utc | 188

PavewayIV, we still have to accept the fact that the plane was advancing towards the TOR unit. It deviated from its designated flight path. Two problems: why did the transponder die, why did the plane turn? If one wants to be zero-BS, the transponder died and the plane turned back. Again, two problems, whose fault was it that the transponder was not working, why did the pilot turn towards a military zone? There is this piece of information that the plane did not pass the preflight inspection but the UIA wanted to fly anyway.

About closing down the airport, just think about this: would not that have seemed like Iran imposing a "no-fly zone" on itself? Second, depending on how early the airport was going to be closed, it could have given the time of the missile attack in Iraq away, as someone in the NYT mentioned. It is rather contrived to suggest that because the FAA imposed a flight ban, the airport should have done so too.

Posted by: Jonathan W | Jan 13 2020 21:58 utc | 189

@Peter AU1

The Americans have planned this, their reasoning probably was that it was cheaper to sacrifice 1 airliner at the hands of the Iranians than a direct confrontation with Iran which would cost 100000s of deaths on all sides and make USA and Trump real bad in public opinion.
The result of this (assassination and "hack") is the Iranians are so demoralized now they have no choice but to surrender to US demands.

Posted by: dave | Jan 13 2020 22:10 utc | 190

——
ak74 | Jan 12 2020 19:26 utc | 33

Somebody posted in the previous topic's discussion that Wikileaks alleges that Russia gave Israel the codes of the TOR-M1 air defenses system that Russia sold to Iran (in exchange for Israel giving Russia codes for UAVs that Israel sold Georgia).

Given that the TOR-M1 system was involved in the shoot-down of the Ukranian airliner, this information should be assessed in understanding what happened in the shootdown of UA PS752.

WikiLeaks: Russia gave Israel Iranian system's codes
https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4196367,00.html

Furthermore, some Iranian officials a couple of years ago have asserted that Russia provided to Israel codes for the S-300 air defense system it sold to Syria.

Iran Charges Russia With Selling Out its Air Defense Secrets to Israel
——

Russian media: Kremlin will punish Greece if Athens provides information about S-300 missile systems to Israel
Monday, July 15, 2019 12:00:14 PM

Athens could suffer if it gives Israel information about S-300 aerial defense systems and lets the Israeli Air Force practice against such systems, writes the Russian site Avia.pro.

“If the key problem of the S-300s is the difficult attacking conditions for Israeli fighters, which are still taking cover behind civilian aircraft, then Iran will certainly be willing to act, attacking any hostile objects without restraint. Obviously, Israel is aware of this, which is why this country’s air force has carried out combat tests of the systems against its own planes,” the site remarks.

The site refers to information published previously by news outlet Tsargrad according to which the Israeli aircraft had practiced bypassing S-300s and attacking during drills over the Mediterranean Sea.

Military analyst Aram Shabanyan said that an Israeli plane had made a night-time training flight over the Mediterranean Sea, and that the distance flown by the plane was identical to “potential military targets in Iran”. Shabanyan believes the crew may have been rehearsing an attack against the heavy water plant in the city of Arak.

Avia.pro does not have information on how successful the Israeli Air Force’s drills against targets in Greece were, but considers it a dangerous thing for Athens to have allowed.

“Russia has enough levers to exert pressure on Greece, whose economy is steadily sinking. Today Greece has a new problem – the Turkish S-400s, which have already been transferred by Russia, but Russia could create far more serious problems for Athens if it starts to act against Moscow,” one of the site’s experts observed.

In October 2018, a little-known media outlet reported that Israel had practiced fighting against S-300s in Ukraine.

In 2007, Greece installed an S-300 system which it received from Cyprus, which had in turn obtained it from Russia in 1999 as protection against Turkey.

As a member of NATO, Greece gave permission for the US, British and Israeli air Forces to practice opposing S-300 systems in its airspace.

Russia, Israel, Greece, S-300 missiles, Ukraine, NATO, Europe
https://www.uawire.org/russian-media-kremlin-will-punish-greece-if-athens-provides-information-about-s-300-missile-systems-to-israel

QUESS WHAT?
GREECE HAS ALSO TOR-M1

Posted by: Qparticle | Jan 13 2020 22:22 utc | 191

Send an email to this guy and ask for an inventory of any M1 systems in maintenance:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panos_Panagiotopoulos

Guess what. He is AGAIN defence minister since this August. Guess he did not had time to have his wiki updated..

Posted by: Qparticle | Jan 13 2020 22:32 utc | 192

Qparticle - Thank you for that information. I find it also interesting that Geoffrey Pyatt is now US Ambassador to Greece. He was the showrunner in Ukraine during Maidan.
Geoffrey R.Pyatt

Posted by: lex talionis | Jan 13 2020 22:54 utc | 193

dave, except for the part where they surrender to u.s. demands. they aren't. but this is quite plausible that, in addition to assassinating a senior iranian official on a peace mission, the u.s. also brought down a plane by hacking, in order to provoke a war that will cost thousands of deaths at least. the warmonger u.s. needs to back off before this happens.

Posted by: pretzelattack | Jan 13 2020 23:06 utc | 194

Jonathan W @188:

would not that have seemed like Iran imposing a "no-fly zone"[?]

No-fly zones are to prevent attacks by military aircraft. I don't think anyone would've thought that a short suspension of commercial flights would reflect badly on Iran or Iran's military.

could have given the time of the missile attack in Iraq away[?]

But we are talking about AFTER the missile attack in Iraq. During a period that Iran was unsure if there would be a attack from USA.

If the report that the plane didn't have clearance to fly is true, then Iran may have been exercising appropriate caution. We'll have to wait for more info.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 13 2020 23:59 utc | 195

Jonathan W @188: why did the transponder die, why did the plane turn?

These are the key questions.

I'm not sure to what degree the plane was actually turning after the transponder signal ended. A normal flight path isn't much different than what the IRGC presentation showed.

The crew never communicated with the tower. Either they didn't know that the transponder wasn't working or whatever happened affected communications also. There's also the possibility of remote control (like a drone).

What is really, really strange is that the transponder was working - then it stopped working. WTF?

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 14 2020 0:10 utc | 196

Qparticle

The greek S-300 is now an old system. Very much updated electronics and software in the recent models sold to Iran and Syria. I suspect Israel would be in for a surprise if it run tactics practiced on the greek system against Syria or Iran's system.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 14 2020 0:24 utc | 197

dave 189

It is a setback, but there is no surrender in Iran. What the US or Trump is doing reminds me very much of some boxing matches. A strategy to wear the opponent down getting in some sharp blows along the way before being able to set up a knockout blow. Taking out Iranian allies in the region will be a big part of this. Constant harrassing moves against Iran itself and waiting for Iran to either weaken or make a fatal mistake.

Posted by: Peter AU1 | Jan 14 2020 0:31 utc | 198

Jackrabbit: Whether the crew communicated with the tower maybe the key question within the key questions. Namely, Southfront says this: "The possible explanation with an electronic warfare attack does not hold up against criticism civilian communication channels remained operational with routine flights continuing from the Tehran airport." On the other hand, if the radio communications with the UIA flight WERE down, then we can flip the Southfront argument on its head and say that since the radio comms were down, then there was an EW attack, especially as there are so many other weird things going on, like the TOR operator complaining that the communications were jammed. And the argument that the Transponder was not working because the Tehran airport engineers did not sign off on the preflight technical check is stretching credibility a bit. And indeed, one of the earlier outbound flights did take a flightpath pretty similar to that the UIA plane would have made if turning right. I think that was a flight to Qatar.

Posted by: Jonathan W | Jan 14 2020 0:31 utc | 199

dave @186:

The Integrated Air Defenses had been hacked and injected with fake data ... but the Americans did fake cruise missile launches to provoke the Iranians ...

Link? Why would USA give away and possibly compromise such capabilities when they didn't plan to retaliate immediately? To annoy the Iranians for a few hours?

What makes more sense is that USA or Israel simply caused the transponder to stop working in the hope that the Iranians would make a mistake and shoot down the aircraft. They may have gotten full remote control of the aircraft also (to turn it toward the Iranian military base), but that doesn't seem like it would actually have been necessary given what PavewayIV @183 tells us: the Tor operator had seconds to decided and for any military-minded person, the decision to shoot was logical.

<> <> <> <> <> <>

Qparticle | Jan 13 2020 22:22 utc | 190:

Wikileaks alleges that Russia gave Israel the codes of the TOR-M1 air defenses system that Russia sold to Iran ...

Link? I find this difficult to believe. If this proved true, it would be a black eye for Russia diplomatically and would likely mean a big drop in Russian military equipment sales.

!!

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Jan 14 2020 0:31 utc | 200

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