Officials at the Pentagon believe the Ukrainian Airlines Flight that crashed shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board, was mistakenly shot down by Iran, according to a new report from Newsweek and follow-up reporting by CBS News and CNN.
Newsweek cites three sources: an official from the Pentagon, as well as “a senior U.S. intelligence official and an Iraqi intelligence official.” CBS News did not immediately elaborate on its sources.
The aircraft is believed to have been struck by a Russia-built Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system, known to NATO as Gauntlet, the three officials told Newsweek.
Two Pentagon officials assess that the incident was accidental. Iran’s anti-aircraft were likely active following the country’s missile attack, which came in response to the U.S. killing last week of Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, sources said.
CBS News transportation correspondent Kris Van Cleave reports that a satellite detected “infrared blips” of two missile launches, and it speculates that they were likely SA-15s, the same missile system reported by Newsweek.
.@cbsnews: US officials are confident Ukrainian Flt 752 was shot down by Iran. US intelligence picked up signals of the radar being turned on & satellite detected infrared blips of 2 missile launches, probably SA-15s, followed shortly by another infrared blip of an explosion.
— Kris Van Cleave (@krisvancleave) January 9, 2020
CBS News is repeatedly using the word “confident” to describe the attitude at the Pentagon about this explanation for the plane crash.
Ukraine International Flight 752 was leaving Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport heading to Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport and crashed just minutes after takeoff. The pilots didn’t send out a distress call, something that has been suspicious from the start.
As Gizmodo pointed out on Wednesday, it was curious that the Ukrainian Embassy in Iran initially posted a message on its website shortly after the crash blaming it on “engine failure due to technical reasons,” only to have the message deleted. According to Reuters, the government of Iran asked Ukraine to delete the message.
Trump on plane that crashed in Iran: "I have my suspicions … it was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood. Some people say it was mechanical. I don't even think that's a question, personally." pic.twitter.com/2TNJosBPRi
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 9, 2020
But even with this kind of news, it’s important to remain sceptical until some kind of evidence is publicly presented. We’ve been down this path many times before, and the Trump regime hasn’t been the most truthful group of people on the planet. Ukrainian aviation experts landed in Iran today to do their own investigation into what happened and it could take considerable time.
If Iran really did shoot down a plane that was flying from its own airport that would be an enormously embarrassing move at an already fragile time for world peace. But it wouldn’t be the first time. In fact, Iran is still incredibly angry about a similar event in 1988 when the U.S. shot down a civilian airliner that had left Tehran, killing 290 people on Iran Air Flight 655.