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Iran’s IRGC’s downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in Iraq

Written By | Aug 1, 2020
Iran, Iraq, IRGC, Airplane, Downing

YBTC News-

PARIS: Following the assassination of IRGC Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani by the United States on Friday, January  3, 2020, near Baghdad Airport, IRGC commanders threatened to take “severe retaliation” against US forces (IRNA – January 8). The promise of this “hard revenge” was also reflected in the official stance of the regime’s foreign minister and the IRGC’s extensive propaganda.

Finally, on the morning of Wednesday, January  8, 2020, the Revolutionary Guards carried out a rocket attack on the Ain al-Assad base in Iraq’s Anbar province, fulfilling the promise of “hard revenge.”

According to published reports, the IRGC missile attack on the Ain al-Assad base did not cause significant casualties. The IRGC, meanwhile, informed Iraqi, Finnish, and Danish officials before the attacks so that coalition forces would have enough time to evacuate the sites.

Iran is experiencing the fatal symptoms of a decaying regime

In the very first hours after the IRGC attacks the Ain al-Assad base, a passenger plane of the Ukrainian International Airlines en route from Tehran to Kyiv was targeted by two missiles fired from the air defense system belonging to the Revolutionary Guards.  Shortly after taking off from the runway of Tehran International Airport at 6:19 am, the plane crashed in Tehran suburbs.  (Plane crash investigation report of Flight 752 of the National Aviation Organization, July 2020).

The publication of the Report of the Civil Aviation Organization of Iran on July 22, 2020, on the destruction of the Ukrainian passenger plane PS752, on the contrary, raised many questions about how this human catastrophe occurred.

While in the first wave of news, government officials said the accident occurred due to a “technical defect,” the course of events and the IRGC officials’ actions, lies, contradictions, and IRGC attempts to divert public opinion from what happened towards “human error” and “unintentional mistake,” serve as evidence that the crash of the Ukrainian plane followed a pattern of “deception operations.”

Operation Deception, known as Operation Maskiruka

The best-known type of military deception operation is known as the Maskirovka, invented by the Russians. (Theatricality and deception: How Russia uses ‘maskirovka’ to shake the world)

The purpose of using this method is to deceive the enemy and divert minds from the main military / strategic issue. Maskirovka usually has four main stages:

    • Complete denial of the operation performed;
    • Distortion of events surrounding the action;
    • Distorting reality, deceiving public opinion;
    • Intimidation and threatening the enemy with hard encounters.

Background of the IRGC deception operation

After the crash of the Ukrainian plane, the news agencies affiliated with the IRGC blamed the technical defect of the Boeing 737 as the cause of the crash (Tasnim News Agency – January 10, 2020).

In the next phase, according to government forces, Iran’s airspace was kept entirely open, contrary to international standards and the announcement of a flight ban, to prevent the operation (IRGC attack on Ayn al-Assad base) from being exposed. But there is strong evidence that the rocket attack on the Ain al-Assad base was reported to coalition forces, including the Americans, by the Danish government six hours before the attack, giving them ample opportunity to evacuate.

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After clarifying the affair by Bellingcat, a website also involved in exposing the destruction of a Malaysian airliner, Hajizadeh, the IRGC’s aerospace commander, said the cause of the accident was a mistake by the air defense system (TOR M) operator in misidentifying the target and seeing it as a cruise missile (IRNA – January 11, 2020).

At the same time, in the state media, the possibility of a cyberattack on the defense system and its manipulation was raised to deceive the public opinion (IRNA – January 14, 2020).

Why did the Velayat-e-Faqih regime refuse to deliver the black box until recently?

Meanwhile, until recently, the Velayat-e-Faqih regime has refused to provide black boxes to international centers for months under various pretexts, in violation of international law, to distort the facts of the missile attack over time. The four stages of deception operations, namely, denial of the event, distortion of the truth, deception of public opinion, and intimidation are well visible.

The result is that there was no military reason for not closing Iranian airspace to prevent the Ayn al-Assad attack from being exposed. Unless there is a political reason

Reflecting on the contradictory data in the “Plane crash investigation report” of July 2020, the country’s aviation organization will lead to significant results. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the Report emphasize that the Ukrainian plane received a flight permit from the airport watchtower and flew “along the predicted route and altitude” to the air corridor.

Therefore, there was no doubt about the route and altitude of the flight, and this flight was in full coordination with the control tower. More importantly, the Defense Network Coordination Center also had information about the plane and issued a flight permit, according to the same report, ” to increase the security network’s ability to identify civilian flights and avoid mistargeting them.”

Also, this report does not provide any evidence of technical or communication and frequency defects or interference with transponder data (PS752 Flight Crash Investigation Progress Report, page 4).

Coordinates of forgery

In the same report (paragraphs 9-11), the cause of human error shooting is listed:

  • – Incorrect settings (in particular, improper adjustment of the azimuth direction north of the defense system (and therefore the system, due to incorrect settings with a coefficient of 107 degrees for the plane coming out of Tehran instead of “a target approaching Tehran from the southwest (Report on the progress of the investigation into the crash of Flight PS752, page 5).Given the radar capabilities, detection and interception of the Tor M1 defense system, and given that the Tor M1 defense system has an advanced multi-stage radar system (mechanical, electronic, optical). It also has a system that can detect “friend-or-foe” flights. As soon as the system receives the first data from the passenger aircraft transponder announcing the identity, coordinates, and altitude of the plane, it easily recognizes its civilian nature. It should also be borne in mind that the dimensions and structure of a passenger aircraft are in no way comparable to cruise missiles (as Hajizadeh claims). The error setting scenario is fragile and no document is provided to prove it.
  • “At 6.14.46, the user of the air defense system, without receiving a response from the Coordination Center, (disconnected) fired a missile at a hostile target he had identified. According to the relevant instructions in the defense, if the defense system failed to communicate with the coordination center and did not receive the firing command, it was not allowed to fire. » ( report on the progress of the investigation of the crash of flight PS752, paragraph 12, page 6. )

In other words, the missile system operator allegedly disobeyed military instructions by facing communication problems (for only a few seconds). But the Iranian regime has never identified anyone or a commander as the culprit in such a catastrophe.

But why did the report’s authors mostly forget that the Tor M1 steering team consists of a commander, an operator, and a driver and that the operator has only a secondary role in the decision-making hierarchy? The deliberate misuse of the word “commander” in this report is striking. There is no doubt that either the senior military commanders must have been aware of the missile strike, or that the army commanders themselves ordered the attack from the beginning. In any case, this report deliberately seeks to remove responsibility from IRGC commanders and reduce it to the level of operator error.

Poor scenario

Suppose we want to accept the scenario presented by the aviation organization in the July 2016 report. This acceptance means that three strongly unlikely events, that is, three events that, technically and militarily, should in no way occur at all, are brought together:

  1. Incorrect settings of the defense system
  2. Disrupting communication lines during firing
  3. The operator (and, of course, the system commander) disobeyed the military instructions. For the operator and the commander of the system, there will be a punishment from long prison to execution.

However, even if we look at this event only through the logic of mathematical probabilities, the probability of such a hypothesis occurring, if not impossible, is at least very low.

After all, if communications were cut off at the time of the firing and repaired after the firing, the missile act should have been reported immediately to IRGC commanders and top officials (as if it had arrived), so why did the Iranian regime initially deny it?

Hidden motives

There was no military reason to leave the airspace open and not to announce a flight ban to prevent the operation from being leaked. But there could be a political reason

The Iranian regime suffered vast uprisings in December 2017 mid-November 2019 uprising, during which at least 1,500 young insurgents were killed, shaking the regime to its foundations. Soleimani’s death was another blow to the system. And it had to respond to Soleimani’s death in any way possible to maintain the morale of its forces inside the country and in the region.

The IRGC feared a possible retaliatory airstrike by US forces on its military and strategic bases. These attacks could be devastating, even though it had previously reported the attack. Perhaps they were afraid that an attack on Ayn al-Assad could be an excuse to target the regime’s nuclear facilities and so on. And so they wanted to open the airspace to create a human shield to increase the risk of “casualties” from an American attack. If there were an attack, the firing on a Ukrainian plane by the IRGC would be the result of American aggression. It would propagandize against the United States and sustain itself.

And in the absence of an attack by the United States, still targeting an international (not domestic) aircraft could well divert local and international attention from a downright harassing attack on “Ain al-Assad” and, consequently, the IRGC’s extreme weakness. Put a human catastrophe at the top of the news.

After all, isn’t the possibility that this catastrophe was intentional much more potent than its inadvertence?


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Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an independent Iranian political analyst and writer based in Europe.