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Rouhani Says Downing Of Airliner 'Unforgivable Error', Calls For Special Court

Iranian President Hassan Rohani speaks during a meeting with farmers in Tehran, January 14, 2020

Iran's presidential administration insists that President Hassan Rouhani was kept in the dark about the cause of the Ukrainian plane crash for more than two days. In an unprecedented move Rouhani is now challenging the Armed Forces and calling for clarification of why they concealed the facts from him as the Head of the country's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).

The country's highest security decisions are supposed to be taken by the Supreme National Security Council headed by Rouhani but it did not even hold a meeting about the plane crash until Friday afternoon because according to the Spokesman Ali Rabiee the government had been assured that the cause of the crash was a technical failure.

In a speech on Tuesday, January 14, Rouhani called on the Armed Forces to clarify the steps taken from the time of the accident last Wednesday to Friday evening when the Supreme National Security Council held an emergency meeting, apparently called by him. "The whole process should be explained to the people," he insisted.

In his speech Rouhani called the downing of the Ukrainian plane by the Revolutionary Guard last week an "unforgivable error" and demanded that the Judiciary should appoint a "special court presided by a high-ranking judge and with tens of experts" to probe it.

In a press conference on Tuesday the Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili said the judiciary has arrested six people in connection with the plane crash case but did not offer any details.

Rouhani repeated his spokesman's earlier argument that as soon as he found out a "horrible and unforgivable error had happened" he insisted that the Armed Forces immediately inform the people of the real reason for the crash; a missile fired by the Revolutionary Guard air defense unit. According to some reports he even threatened to resign if the Guards did not accept responsibility for the downing of the plane.

The Armed Forces General Headquarters and Revolutionary Guards commanders, including IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Amir-Ali Hajizadeh who took personal responsibility, and IRGC Chief Commander General Hossein Salami, have all blamed the accident on "an error of judgement" made by one single person, the operator of the air defense system that fired the missile. But Rouhani pointing out that he is not ignorant of air defense procedures is now challenging these claims.

"Being more or less familiar with air defense issues I can say that in this matter we can't blame only one person. It is not as if only the person who hit the button [to fire the missile] was at fault, there were others too," he said on Tuesday.

"Never before has a person in charge or an air defense officer made a mistake like this involving a passenger plane, in the capital and the center of the country and close to an international airport," Rouhani said, promising the families of the victims to continue his efforts until "all aspects of the matter are clarified and everybody who was responsible is punished".

Rouhani, like other officials of the Islamic Republic, also blamed the United States in his speech but unlike others indicated that he wants to dig deeper, to show how vital decisions are made, without him and to show how other relevant government bodies such as the Civil Aviation Organization were led astray about the cause of the crash, bringing much embarrassment to the government.

"The United States caused tensions and made the situation atypical. The United States threatened and took away our beloved people, all of that is correct. But it does not mean that we do not investigate all the root causes in this accident," he said.