US Officials "Highly Confident" Iran Accidentally Shot Down Ukrainian Jet

Update 2: The New York Times is bringing us a little more insight into how American officials know whatever it is they know about the circumstances surrounding the fate of UIA Flight 752, which crashed just hours after an Iranian assault on American assets in Iraq.

Apparently, officials from the NTSB have been invited to participate in the investigation by Iran, and a preliminary assessment apparently led them to conclude that the plane was almost definitely accidentally shot down by a missile, echoing the destruction of Malaysian Air Flight 17, which was shot down over Ukraine. 

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Update: During what appears to be an informal press gaggle at the White House late Thursday morning, President Trump went off on the Iranians, claiming that the US attacked Suleimani to stop him from bombing an embassy, before adding that he has "doubts" that the Ukrainian jet crash was caused by mechanical error.

He also reportedly said that new sanctions on Iran had already been approved. 

  • TRUMP SAYS IRANIANS SOUGHT TO 'BLOW UP' U.S. EMBASSY

  • NEW SANCTIONS ON IRAN ALREADY APPROVED BY TREASURY, TRUMP SAYS

  • TRUMP SAYS HAS DOUBTS UKRANIAN JET CRASH CAUSE WAS MECHANICAL

  • U.S. OFFICIALS ARE NOW CONFIDENT UKRAINE AIRLINER WAS SHOT DOWN BY IRANIAN MISSILE, CITING SATELLITE DATA -GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS

  • TRUMP: MAY WAIT FOR PHASE TWO CHINA DEAL UNTIL AFTER ELECTION

Other reports citing anonymous US officials are also claiming that US intelligence knowns precise details of the attack, including the fact that Iran brought the plane down with two missiles.

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Things just got even more complicated for Tehran as the deadly crash of UIA Flight 752 looks set to become the center of a new international diplomatic crisis.

That's because, just as we suspected, the deadly crash of UIA Flight 752 over Tehran Tuesday night, which occurred just hours after the regime launched a barrage of missiles at American installations in Iraq, was apparently the result of a misfiring of Iran's missile defense system. 

Or at least that's what Newsweek is reporting, citing senior US intelligence officials.

The Ukrainian flight that crashed just outside the Iranian capital of Tehran was struck by an anti-aircraft missile system, a Pentagon official, a senior U.S. intelligence official and an Iraqi intelligence official told Newsweek.

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737–800 en route from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airpot to Kyiv's Boryspil International Airport, stopped transmitting data Tuesday just minutes after takeoff and not long after Iran launched missiles at military bases housing U.S. and allied forces in neighboring Iraq. The aircraft is believed to have been struck by a Russia-built Tor M-1 surface-to-air missile system, known to NATO as Gauntlet, the three officials told Newsweek.

As of now, the base assumption is that the shooting was accidental...

Two Pentagon officials assess that the incident was accidental. Iran's anti-aircraft were likely active following the country's missile attack, which came in response to the U.S. killing last week of Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani, sources said.

Earlier today, Tehran vehemently denied the "rumors" that the plane was shot down, claiming that the plane took a suspicious turn shortly after takeoff that Iranian officials seemed to suggest indicated some kind of mechanical error. Outcry over the attack has been muted, probably because, as we've pointed out before, Iran's commercial airline industry has had several high-profile safety slip-ups over the years, as its aging planes sometimes struggle to stay airborne. 

But the attack on Tuesday was different. The plane seemed to plunge from the sky just 2 minutes after taking off from the international airport in Tehran. Video of the accident released late Thursday appears to show it being struck by a projectile of some kind.

Iran's behavior in the wake of the crash has been suspicious. It is reportedly planning to keep some of the data from the plane's 'black box' from officials at the Ukrainian airline that was operating the plane when it crashed. 

Just as we anticipated, the markets are treating this news as vindication for Boeing, which sunk in the aftermath of reports that another Boeing 737 had crashed. 

Boeing shares rebounded on reports that the crash was apparently out of their control:

The question now is how does the world handle this information. Though the shooting was probably a mistake, 176 people, mostly non-Iranians, are dead. Canada and the US are already demanding more transparency from Tehran. Where do we go from here?

Source: The BBC

What's the West's next move? And will this escalate odds of another violent confrontation?