The Iranian administration has denied spreading misinformation following the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane near Tehran last week.
A Ukraine International Airlines jetliner crashes a few minutes after take-off from Tehran to Kiev early Wednesday, killing all 176 crew members and passengers.
In their initial reactions to the incident, Iranian officials attributed the crash to technical failure and dismissed the possibility of the plane having been shot down by missiles.
However, after conducting thorough investigations, Iran’s General Staff of the Armed Forces released a statement on Saturday, acknowledging that the Ukrainian plane had been brought down by missiles fired “unintentionally” due to “human error.”
The discrepancy between the initial accounts and the subsequent investigations gave rise to a wave of public anger, with some accusing government officials of seeking to cover up the truth.
Speaking at a press conference in Tehran on Monday, Ali Rabiei, the administration’s spokesman, said, “As a matter of fact, we did not lie. Lying means conscious and deliberate falsification of the truth. Such a thing never took place.”
Elaborating on his own statements on Thursday during which he ruled out any likelihood that the aircraft had been downed by a missile, Rabiei said those remarks were made "based on information available to the administration at the time, which rejected the role of any missile" as the cause of the crash.
None of the administration officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, were aware of the cause of the crash until Friday evening, when the administration was provided with the findings of an investigation by General Staff of the Armed Forces, he explained.
Head of the Aerospace Division of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, explained that the operator in charge had identified what his air defense system had detected as an incoming cruise missile. He then “took the wrong decision” in a “ten-second” time span after a failure in the communication network prevented him from obtaining permission for the launch.
The Islamic Republic’s Armed Forces were on the highest level of alert at the time of the incident after President Donald Trump had threatened to strike 52 targets inside Iran, if the country attempted to avenge the US assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, in Baghdad.
Rabiei said as soon as President Rouhani ascertained what had caused the crash, he ordered that the public be informed accordingly.
He also commended the General Staff of the Armed Forces’ statement as an “honest and responsible” admission of liability for the incident. “This is a good start,” he said, expressing confidence that the incident will continue to be addressed in a transparent way until all matters are resolved.
Rabiei also said Iran needed to take all technical precautions to “reduce the likelihood of human errors to zero."
The spokesman, meanwhile, drew attention to the “root cause” of the tragedy, namely “the US regime’s cowardly assassination of General Soleimani that raised the specter of war over our country and [thus] imposed heavy psychological pressure on our society.”
He also noted that “the incidence of a single error” should not call into question all the sacrifices and endeavors exerted by the country’s defense forces.
Trump shedding ‘crocodile tears’ for Iran
Rabiei also condemned Trump’s recent Persian-language tweets, in which he alleged solidarity with the Iranian people.
He noted that the US President was the very person who ordered the assassination of the country’s most revered general, threatened to target scores of Iranian sites, and had already done much in the way of limiting Iranians’ sustenance by subjecting them to draconian sanctions.
UK envoy's conduct 'unacceptable'
The official finally addressed British Ambassador Robert Macaire’s recent participation in an illegal protest rally in Tehran and his filming of the event that led to his brief detention by security forces.
He described the envoy’s behavior as “unprofessional and unacceptable” which was beyond the scope of an ambassador's diplomatic duties.
Macaire was summoned to the Foreign Ministry over his conduct, Rabiei said, advising Britain's government to stay out of Iran’s internal affairs given the “unfavorable history” of its interference in the country.