June 24, 2021 By Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — A “series of reckless acts and omissions” by Iranian authorities resulted in the fatal downing of a passenger jet in January 2020, according to a Canadian government summary of a forensic report.
The official document from the Prime Minister’s Office says Iran showed a “blatant disregard” for air safety by failing to provide any information to airlines about its military activities when it launched a missile strike against a pair of U.S. bases across the border in Iraq hours before the plane was shot down.
All 176 people on board Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 were killed, including 55 Canadian citizens, 30 permanent residents and dozens of others bound for Canada. The Tehran-Kyiv route has been a popular first leg of a trip from Iran to Canada.
“A series of reckless acts and omissions by Iranian civil and military authorities caused a dangerous situation where risks were underestimated and not taken seriously,” the summary states.
“These acts and omissions – both in their failure to properly manage the safety of Iran’s airspace and in deficiencies in the development and implementation of their plans, systems and procedures – combined to create conditions where the surface-to-air missile (SAM) unit operator likely misidentified Flight PS752 as a hostile target.”
The summary draws on a forensic investigation led by Jeff Yaworski, former deputy director of operations at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. The study relies partly on intelligence as well as a report from Iran’s civil aviation authority, and comes after Iran blocked Canadian and Ukrainian investigators from a comprehensive on-site analysis.
It also comes three months after the federal government rejected outright the authority’s report, which blamed “human error” as the reason why the Iranian military shot down Ukraine International Airlines jetliner minutes after takeoff from the Tehran airport en route to Kyiv.
“While the SAM unit’s likely misalignment was a factor, this in no way absolves Iran of its responsibility for the death of 176 innocent people,” the summary reads, citing “numerous command and control failures.”
“These conclusions confirm Canada’s view that Iran’s actions displayed incompetence, recklessness, and wanton disregard for human life.”
The forensic team also found that the problems may persist given that Iran has not responded to those concerns “in candid and compelling terms,” likely putting planes at continued risk, “particularly when Iran heightens its defence posture during times of increased tension.”
Iran initially denied responsibility for the crash on Jan. 8, 2020, but three days later said the Ukraine-bound Boeing 737-800 was shot down by accident after being mistaken for a missile amid heightened tensions with the United States. The admission came after video footage on social media appeared to show at least one missile striking the jet.
The disaster unfolded hours after Iran launched missiles into Iraq at two American military bases in retaliation for the U.S. having killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport by order of then-U.S. president Donald Trump.
“The facts are clear: Iran is responsible for the deaths of 176 innocent people,” Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said Thursday at a virtual news conference.
Garneau reiterated the government’s aim of “full reparations.” These include a full accounting of events, “complete transparency” around ongoing criminal prosecutions and guarantees from Iran on steps taken to avoid future tragedies, he said.