In statements that highlighted the additional unintended consequences and innocent deaths that may have resulted from President Donald Trump's decision to kick off a violent escalation with Iran by assassinating one of its top military commanders last week, U.S. and Canadian officials announced Thursday their claim that it was likely an Iranian missile that downed a Ukrainian commercial airliner on Tuesday, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board.
According to news sources, U.S. officials are expressing a "high level of confidence" that the plane did not crash due to mechanical or other failures, but was rather shot out of the sky by an Iranian surface-to-air missile—likely by accident—not long after taking off from the airport in Tehran.
As the New York Times reports:
The Ukrainian airliner, a Boeing 737-800, went down on Wednesday morning, killing at least 176 people. It had turned back toward the Tehran airport before it crashed in a huge explosion minutes after takeoff, according to an initial Iranian report released on Thursday. The report said that the plane, bound for Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, was in flames before it hit the ground but did not send a distress signal.
Although both the United States and Iran now appear to be backing away from a larger military confrontation, the new intelligence suggests that the loss of life from the downing of the plane was a direct result of those heightened tensions between the countries.
Following the new and selective leaks from U.S. intelligence about the downed plane, Canada's Prime Minister on Thursday said his country's intelligence services also had reason to believe that an Iranian missile was the culprit. Sixty-three Canadians who were heading back home when the plane crashed were among the victims.
"This may have been unintentional," Trudeau said at a press conference in Ottowa, but added that the "intelligence and evidence suggests that it's a surface to air strike." Trudeau, expressing sympathy for all the victims and their families, called for a thorough investigation into the crash.
Anti-war voices and members of the international community have placed the blame for the recent escalation in violence squarely at the feet of Trump for his decision last week to order the assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.
Even if Iran was shown to have shot down the jetliner, some observers were quick to argue that Trump has the blood of the victims "on his hands" for touching off the violence with an assassination both he and his top cabinet members knew full well would lead to retaliation from Tehran. Other voices called for blame to be placed aside, however, until a full verification of what took place with the tragic crash and loss of life.
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#IranPlaneCrash shouldn’t be politicized but investigated *before* drawing conclusions. Tragedy is loss of life that will only be compounded *if* it was shot down. Remember #Iranian flight downed by US in 1987, 290 lives lost. Escalation & war are filled w/tragey, it needs to end— Assal Rad (@AssalRad) January 9, 2020
Horrible accidents happen in the context of war so maybe we just shouldn’t be at war with Iran— Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein) January 9, 2020
Given the U.S. government's record of lying and leaking misleading intelligence to serve its own interests—a practice shared by many government agencies in the world—critical voices said that first and foremost such accusations must be confirmed with credible evidence and transparent investigations.
There is a lot of information warfare going on around not just this subject but the entire nature of the recent escalation. Very difficult to know what is going on even for those paying close attention let alone general public. https://t.co/EMNx9sTqvK— Murtaza Mohammad Hussain (@MazMHussain) January 9, 2020
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his intention is to speak with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani directly about the crash and the investigation surrounding it. "Undoubtedly, the priority for Ukraine is to identify the causes of the plane crash," Zelenskiy said. "We will surely find out the truth."
At this point, with scant information verified by news organizations or third-party investigations, independent reporters like Shadowproof's Kevin Gosztola warned both journalists and broadcasters—given the tragic circumstances and the gravity of the possible repercussions—to treat the claims of U.S. and other intelligence agencies with skepticism.
"Every bit of speculation and prejudiced belief expressed by the Trump administration about crashed Ukraine airliner," Gosztola advised in a tweet, "must be backed up with concrete evidence. Otherwise, it is quite clearly to justify escalating war against Iran."