Iranian Officials Blame Miscommunication, Misaligned Missile Battery for Downed Passenger Plane: Reports
Middle EastPaula Liu

Iranian officials are blaming a misaligned missile battery and miscommunication between the commander and their troops, as well as the decision to fire missiles without permission as reasons for the shooting down of the passenger aircraft in January, according to a report released by Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization.

The report, which was released on July 11, came almost six months after the shootdown happened on Jan. 8 near Tehran. While Iranian officials initially denied that they had anything to do with the attack, they admitted to shooting down the Ukraine aircraft after being presented with evidence from Western nations that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards shot down the plane. The regime attributed the incident to human error, according to The Associated Press.

The news outlet indicated that on the same night that Iran downed the Ukrainian passenger aircraft, Iran had launched missiles that were targeted at the United States as a counterstrike for what had occurred on January 3, when Iranian commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike in Baghdad.

The plane, operated by Ukrainian International Airlines, was en route to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and was carrying 167 passengers and nine crew members from several countries, including 82 Iranians, at least 63 Canadians, and 11 Ukrainians, according to officials.

At the time Iran was expecting the United States to attack them in a counterstrike for their earlier missile strike. The report explained that the Iranian troops had mistaken the aircraft for a missile, according to The Associated Press.

Furthermore, the report indicated that the surface-to-air missile battery that targeted the Ukraine aircraft wasn’t oriented properly after it was moved to another location, according to The Associated Press.

NPR reported that the air defense unit operator who was in charge of handling the missile launches noticed that the Ukrainian aircraft had been identified by the system as a threat. He initially contacted the command center to notify them of the object. But he received no response from the commanding officer.

NPR further indicated that the operator made the fateful decision to fire the missile.

The report identified human error as the cause of the accident. Six people who were believed to have been involved with the incident have been arrested, said Gholamhossein Esmaili, the judiciary spokesman, back in June 2020, according to The Associated Press.

Mimi Nguyen-Ly contributed to this report.