Iran Makes Arrests Related to Ukrainian Plane Crash; Analyst Says Iranian Credibility Severely Damaged

By Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya
Venus Upadhayaya reports on wide range of issues. Her area of expertise is in Indian and South Asian geopolitics. She has reported from the very volatile India-Pakistan border and has contributed to mainstream print media in India for about a decade. Community media, sustainable development, and leadership remain her key areas of interest.
January 14, 2020Updated: January 14, 2020

Iran arrested an unspecified number of suspects on Jan. 14 in connection with the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet, although experts said the arrests won’t solve the crisis, and that the Iranian regime isn’t trustworthy.

Iran’s Press TV reported that the Iranian Judiciary Commission detained a number of suspects “for their role in the plane crash,” according to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency.

New York Times journalist and Iran expert Farnaz Fassihi reported on Twitter that the man who took video footage of the plane being struck by a missile was arrested.

Ali Bakeer, an Ankara-based Middle East analyst, says the Iranian regime has arrested low-ranking officials involved in the downing of the plane; he thinks that the whole episode lacks transparency.

“I think arresting a few people with relatively low ranks will not solve the problem. To people, authorities that lie once, try hard to hide the evidence, and only confess under pressure and credible intel info, can always lie,” Bakeer told The Epoch Times.

The information about the arrests was released in a statement by Judiciary Commission spokesman Ghulam Hussein Ismaili, two days after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) acknowledged on Jan. 11 that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed on Jan. 8, killing all 176 people aboard.

“The whole operation was a fiasco. It uncovered the devastating incompetence of the regime,”  Bakeer said.

After the crash, the Iranian government repeatedly denied Western accusations amid mounting evidence that it was responsible, according to the Tehran Times.

“The gap between the state and the mafia running the state which allowed such a tragic incident to occur in the first place is widening,” Bakeer said.

The plane was shot down hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

Part of the wreckage from Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, a Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after taking off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport
Part of the wreckage from Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, a Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed after being hit by a missile shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport on Jan. 8, 2020. (Iran Press/Handout via Reuters)

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani released a statement on Jan. 11 referring to the investigation in the case and called the incident a “mistaken shooting” by the Iranian army that was on “high alert” to defend itself from a U.S. military response.

“In the atmosphere of threats and intimidation by the aggressive American regime against the Iranian nation after the martyrdom of General Qasem Soleimani, and in order to defend ourselves against possible attacks by the American Army, the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran were on full alert, which unfortunately led to this terrible catastrophe taking the lives of dozens of innocent people because of human error and mistaken shooting,” Rouhani said.

The country has witnessed widespread protests since Jan. 11, after its military conceded the mistake.

“I believe the Iranian regime is under immense internal pressure right now and this could drive it to be more aggressive, especially against the anti-regime protests,” Bakeer said.

Calls for International Investigation

While the Iranian government continued to push its anti-America narrative after the incident, many nations that lost their citizens demanded an international investigation. Experts, however, think that the Iranian regime will most likely not accept one.

Those dead in the incident included 11 Ukrainians, 57 Canadians (including many Iranians with dual citizenship), 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three Britons.

“I call on all international partners of Ukraine, the entire world community to be one and persistent until the full and final investigation into all the circumstances of this disaster. All of us need it,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement on Jan. 11.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven called the incident “terrible and horrifying” and said his country is in touch with the governments of other countries who lost their citizens.

Epoch Times Photo
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Charles Platiau/AFP via Getty Images)

“[Yesterday] a group was established at foreign minister level (the International Coordination and Response Group for victims of Flight PS752) together with these countries. I will ensure that the group quickly establishes contact in light of the statement from Iran. We also have the support of the EU in our demands for a full investigation and for Iran’s cooperation in this,” Löfven said in a statement on Jan. 11.

However, Bakeer told The Epoch Times that the Iranian regime will most likely not accept the calls for an international investigation.

“Of course, they have every single right to call for international investigation given the fact that this regime can’t be trusted and has been in constant violation of many of the international laws, whether it comes to internal or external behavior and policies,” said Bakeer.

Calls for a transparent investigation were also made by Canada, Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom, as per the official statements by each nation.