- Iran is doubling down in denying that the plane crash that killed 176 people on Wednesday could have been caused by one of its missiles.
- A government representative called the idea a “big lie” it described as a “psychological operation of the US government.”
- Both and US and Canada say their intelligence indicates the Ukraine International Airlines flight was brought down by an Iranian missile. An Iranian presidential adviser said Persian-language media was “warned” against repeating the “psychological warfare.”
- Ukraine said that the missile theory was not yet confirmed and that its goal was “to establish the undeniable truth.”
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Iran is doubling down in denying allegations that it shot down a Ukrainian plane, calling them a “big lie” and accusing the US of carrying out a “psychological operation” meant to discredit its story.
Both the US and Canada say their intelligence indicates an Iranian missile shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which crashed Wednesday morning, killing all 176 people on board.
Such an incident could have happened in error, as the crash took place while Iran was bracing for the possibility of US retaliation to its missile strikes hours earlier on bases housing US troops in Iraq.
Iran reacted to the claims by anonymous US intelligence officials and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday by saying the country’s missiles would not have been able to reach the plane’s altitude, though other information about the missiles disputes this.
And on Friday morning, the government spokesman Ali Rabiei called the idea Iran downed the plane a “big lie.”
“No one will assume responsibility for such a big lie once it is known that the claim had been fraudulent,” he said in a statement, according to state media outlet Press TV.
“It is unfortunate that the psychological operation of the US government, and those supporting it knowingly and unknowingly, are adding insult to the injury of the bereaved families and victimizing them for certain goals by propagating such fallacies,” he said.
While Iran walked back its statements mere hours after the crash ruling out a terrorist attack, it has consistently pushed back against ideas that the crash could have involved a missile or such an attack.
Ali Abedzadeh, the head of Iran’s civil aviation organisation, was more measured in his comments Friday morning but said Iran could say with “certainty that no missile has hit this aeroplane.”
And Hesameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iran’s president, said on Friday that Persian-language media had been “warned” against repeating the “psychological warfare” Iran said was being carried out by Western nations.
Intelligence suggests an Iranian missile was responsible, as Iran weighs up what role to give other countries in the investigation
Multiple reports Thursday cited a host of US intelligence officials who said it was “highly likely,” based on information available, that Iran was responsible.
These included sources telling CBS that intelligence detected antiaircraft radars turning on before the crash and that satellites detected two infrared blips, thought to be SA-15 missiles, that were quickly followed by another blip, the suspected aircraft explosion.
The New York Times said it had verified a video that appeared to show a missile hitting the plane.
The plane, a Boeing 737-800 NG operated by Ukraine International Airlines, was flying from Tehran, Iran, to Kyiv, Ukraine.
Trudeau on Thursday said intelligence from Canada and its allies indicated that the plane was brought down by an Iranian missile and called for a “thorough” investigation. Sixty-three Canadians were killed on the flight.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the idea the plane was shot down had not been confirmed and that he wanted Canada, the US, the UN, and other countries with data about the crash to share their evidence.
“Our goal is to establish the undeniable truth,” he said.
Ukraine had said on Thursday that it wanted to investigate the possibility that the plane was downed by a missile and was working with Iran to gain access to the site.
The crash took place just hours after Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at US forces in Iraq in retaliation to the US airstrike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week.
Pentagon officials told Newsweek that they thought the missile most likely hit the plane by accident, as Iranian defence systems were probably active at the time it was flying. Nearly half of the people on the plane were Iranian.
Iran had said in its initial report into the crash Thursday that the plane had suffered an unnamed technical fault shortly after takeoff, was on fire in the air, and had turned back in the direction of the airport before it crashed.
Iran has signalled it will allow Boeing, an American manufacturer, to join in the investigation, despite earlier statements that it would not do so.
Iran is leading an investigation into the crash, in accordance with international law, and says it has invited other countries who had citizens on board in a bid to be transparent.
But Iran also said it wanted to try to deal with data from the plane’s flight recorders itself, rather than send them to another country, and signalled it would involve other countries only if the so-called black boxes were too damaged to read using technology available in Iran.
Iran, however, is said to have used bulldozers to move around debris from the crash site, potentially destroying evidence that could help determine exactly what happened.