Our Beacon Forum

The Unfortunate Ukraine Plane
By:John Lawton, Boston
Date: Monday, 13 January 2020, 8:47 pm

Mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil Saturday in Iran's capital, Tehran, to remember the victims of the Ukrainian plane crash.
Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Updated at 4:05 p.m. ET

Less than a day after Iran finally acknowledged that its armed forces unintentionally brought down a Ukrainian jetliner, Iranian authorities' admission of the "unforgivable mistake" has had major reverberations — both in Iran's capital, Tehran, where demonstrators crowded local universities Saturday, and around a stunned world.

"The fact that Iran has now taken responsibility for the downing of that aircraft means that it is likely that they will be full participants and fully allow a credible, independent international investigation with all partners involved," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference Saturday.

"We still have work to do to ensure that happens," he added, "but the question of responsibility, I think, takes us a step forward towards truly having a very credible and thorough investigation."

The prime minister's comments came two days after he first revealed Canada's suspicion that an Iranian missile system shot down the plane near Tehran early Wednesday. Of the 176 people who were killed aboard the aircraft, 57 were Canadian nationals.

"I had a chance to sit with some of the families of the victims," Trudeau said Saturday. "They are hurt, angry and grieving. They want answers. They want justice. What Iran has admitted to is very serious. Shooting down a civilian aircraft is horrific. Iran must take full responsibility. Canada will not rest until we get the accountability, justice and closure that the families deserve."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses a news conference Saturday in Ottawa, flanked by high-level ministers. Trudeau called the Iranian admission a "step forward," but noted there are lots of questions still to be answered.
Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images

Canadians were far from the only passengers who on board. Most of the passengers on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 were Iranian. Demonstrators there turned out in droves Saturday to mourn the victims and protest the actions of their own government, which spent days forcefully denying the missile strike before reversing course with its admission.
Ukrainian Plane Crash In Iran: Here's What The Available Evidence Shows
National Security
Ukrainian Plane Crash In Iran: Here's What The Available Evidence Shows
Iran Says It Shot Down Ukrainian Jetliner By Mistake
Iran Says It Shot Down Ukrainian Jetliner By Mistake

The Iranian government, already beleaguered with recent protests over a spike in fuel prices, enjoyed an upswell of popular support after a U.S. drone strike killed a prominent Iranian military commander in Baghdad last week. The killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who enjoyed a towering reputation among Iranians, elicited massive rallies of mourners and expressions of support for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Earlier this week, Khamenei and the Iranian military retaliated for Soleimani's killing with a series of missile strikes on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops. The attacks, which resulted in no casualties at the bases, came within hours of the Ukrainian jetliner's crash.

Now, the downing of that plane threatens to unravel the broad domestic support Iran's government enjoyed just one week ago. Circulating on social media Saturday were videos of angry protesters, many of whom took aim at Khamenei with chants of "shameless" and "death to the dictator," according to Reuters.