Iran Faces More Pressure After Apparent Jet Shootdown: Experts
Jan. 10–Western leaders say it appears “highly likely” that Iran shot down the passenger jet that crashed near Tehran on Tuesday, killing all 176 people on board in the midst of boiling U.S.-Iran tensions — though experts say that what was likely a tragic accident will mainly just put more pressure on Iran.
The crash came just a few hours after Iran launched a ballistic attack against Iraqi military bases housing U.S. troops in its violent confrontation with Washington over the U.S. drone strike that killed an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general. The airliner could have been mistaken for a threat, said four U.S. officials, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country lost at least 63 citizens in the downing, said in Toronto: “The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.”
Iranians and Ukrainians made up most of the other passengers.
President Trump had appeared to favor de-escalating tensions following the U.S. military operation that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and the subsequent Iranian strikes that resulted in no loss of life, and he continued that moderate tone Thursday.
“Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side,” Trump said, noting the plane was flying in a “pretty rough neighborhood.”
It was not immediately clear how the U.S. and its allies would react. Despite efforts by Washington and Tehran to step back from the brink of possible war, the region remained on edge after the killing of the Iranian general and Iran’s retaliatory missile strikes.
“If anything it shows how on edge they are,” said the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Rubin, who said this is “just a tragic outcome of Iranian incompetence.”
“The fact that they lied about this is going to hurt them with their own public,” Rubin told the Herald, adding that the regime likely will face more pressure from its citizens — who periodically protest the oppressive regime — over the loss of Iranian life.
Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies said Trump should “rally the international community to get Iran to de-escalate further.”
“Iran should be forced to pay damages and claims,” he told the Herald. “It should expose the hypocrisy of the regime to its people even further. It’s time for Tehran to own up.”
Iranian officials initially blamed a technical malfunction for the crash and ruled out any shootdown.
Margaret Croy of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey said the U.S. response likely will hinge on whether Iran’s government continues to bar other countries from inspecting the crash, as they originally did.
“It will be really difficult for the U.S. and allied governments to take that in good faith,” Croy said. “Any kind of continued denial is probably going to hurt that.”
Herald wire services contributed to this report. ___
This article is written by Sean Philip Cotter from Boston Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.