We get it: The Islamic Republic of Iran has been under intense pressure from within and without from almost the time of its very inception. We get it: the IRI is weary of foreign intrigue and domestic unrest. We get it: The IRI is vigilant against those wishing to bring about regime change. All that aside: The blood of the 176 who perished on January 8, 2020, is on your hands.
The Ukraine International Airlines Flight 725 was blown out of the skies over Imam Khomeini Airport a few hours after the IRI fired its “retaliatory” missiles at the Iraqi bases housing US military missions, in retaliation for the assassination of General Soleimnai by the United States.
It took almost three days for the IRI to admit to this kill. We get it: Shit happens; there was an anticipation that the US would hit back for the missile attacks. We get it: Probably the airport was among the 52 sites that Mr. Trump had identified for retaliation if Iran reacted to the killing of General Soleimani. We get it: There was fog of war. None of this justifies the IRI’s shooting down of this civilian airliner “unintentional.”
The Tor M1 missiles that brought down the aircraft were fired intentionally at the plane. They did their job as they were designed to do – with efficacy and lethal results. The IRI personnel who manned the missile batteries too did their job. Was thre an intent to fire on a passenger plane? Probably not. But was the operations mode one of “When in doubt, shoot first and answer questions later?” We do not know. We can only hope that this was truly a tragic mistake.
Should this tragedy have happened at all? No. But that is not the responsibility of the missile or its operators: This tragedy is the result of a systemal dysfunction in the managing of the airport theatre that night. Why was the plane in the sky to begin with in a night when the IRI expected US retaliation for its missile attacks on the Iraqi bases? Why were the airports not in a stand-down mode?
For almost three days, the IRI obfuscated around the circumstances of the downing of the plane. Worst of all, within hours of the kill, the military spokesperson stood before the cameras and outright denied that it was a missile that brought down the plane, in fact stating that it would have been impossible for a missile to have hit the plane. We get it: This is the age of deep fake, doctored videos, and manufactured evidence by those who wish to harm the IRI and its reputation – and so one cannot believe everything one sees or hears.
The problem with outright denial however is that it is hard to walk it back with dignity. The appropriate statement in the early hours of the tragedy would have been “It is too early for us to determine for sure what brought down the plane. We will keep you posted when we find out more.” Three days later, the IRI Foreign Minister linked the cause of the downing of the plane to US adventurism – presumably, the assassination of General Soleimani. No, sir, there is a reason why we do not go to the original sin for an explanation when the approximate cause of the wrong stares us in the face – What brought down UIA Fl 725 was the firing of missiles by the IRI at the plane. Period. Full stop.
The beauty of telling the Truth is that it is cathartic and you have to say it only once. Credit goes to those who come right out and admit the Truth; credit does not go to those who are forced to admit the Truth because the evidence is so overwhelming and they are caught red-handed in lies, half-truths.
Now that the IRI has faced up to its part in this fiasco, it is time for it make amends, for the purposes of which the US and other countries should lift their financial sanctions on money transfers to victims’ families.
There are two precedents that IRI should bear in mind, as it fixes the appropriate compensation for the wrongful death of 179 people and the loss of the aircraft and attendant loss of business by the airline because of having one less plane to operate.
Robert W. Imbrie was serving as U.S. Vice-consul in Tehran in July 1924 when he and his American colleague set out to photograph the site of a water-well, where a few days earlier a blind person was rumored to have regained his sight. Upon reaching the place, which was a stone’s throw from a Cossack military barracks, a police station and a hospital, a mob fell upon Imbrie’s carriage. He was dragged out and severely beaten, as the police stood by with little interference. Imbrie was subsequently taken to the hospital, where the mob attacked him again, this time fatally.
The Imbrie incident resulted in a proclamation of martial law, mass arrests, and the resignations of some of Prime Minister Reza Khan’s colleagues. A court martial convicted an army private to death for inciting the mob to kill Imbrie in disregard of his superiors’ orders to desist. In October, the private was executed and a day later the Iranian government tendered $60,000 to the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires at Tehran, an amount that the U.S. government had fixed as reparations for the loss suffered by Mrs. Imbrie. In addition, the Iranian government paid an additional $110,000 for the expense incurred by the United States in transporting Imbrie’s body back to the United States on board a U.S. cruiser that had been sent to the Persian Gulf to collect the body.
The Iran Air Flight 655 was flying from Bandar Abbas, Iran, to Dubai, in United Arab Emirates, in 1988 when the U.S.S. Vincennes fired at it over the Persian Gulf, killing 290, including 66 children. At the time of the attack, the Vincennes was traversing the Strait of Hormuz inside Iranian territorial waters and Flight 655 was within Iranian airspace. According to the U.S. government, the crew mistakenly identified the Iranian aircraft as an attacking F-14 Tomcat fighter. The Iranian government maintained that the Vincennes knowingly shot down the civilian aircraft.
In May 1989, Iran instituted proceedings against the United States at the ICJ, alleging that the United States had violated the Convention on International Civil Aviation and Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, and demanded compensation.
In February 1996, the parties notified the Court that their governments had agreed to discontinue the case because they had entered into a settlement agreement. As part of the settlement, the United States agreed to pay US$61.8 million in compensation for the Iranians killed in the attack - $300,000 per wage-earning victim, $150,000 per non-wage-earner.
It was not disclosed how the remaining $70 million of the settlement money was apportioned. Further, compensation was paid for the 38 non-Iranians who had died in the incident. The payment of compensation was explicitly characterized by the United States as ex gratia payment, denying any responsibility or liability for what had occurred.
We get it: It is a national pastime among Iranians to play the game of “ki boud, ki boud – man naboudam.” This is no time for that gimmick. The ABC sitcom Family Matters (now in reruns) featured a character named Steve Quincy Urkel. Whenever one of his endeavors made a mess of things, another character would intone "Whoa, look what you did!" To which Urkel would sheepishly respond, “Did I do that?” Yes, IRI, you did this. Now is time to make amends and please refrain from insulting the dignity of the victims by calling them “martyrs” of the war with the Great Satan.