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Rouhani Shares Responsibility With IRGC For Downing Ukraine's Passenger Aircraft

Soldiers carry a coffin containing the remains of one of the eleven Ukrainian victims of the Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 during a memorial ceremony January 19, 2020

One of the many different versions of the story about the downing of a Ukrainian airliner by an IRGC missiles on January 8, is that the Rouhani administration was kept in the dark about what had happened.

This version of the story says that it was only after Rouhani threatened to resign on the third day after the disaster that the IRGC acknowledged its responsibility for the missile attack.

A New York Times report that stirred controversy in Iranian media and social networks is also based on this version of what happened.

Regardless of how close this account of the story is to what really took place on January 8 and led to the loss of 176 lives, there are a few simple questions that can seriously cast doubt on it.

There were many speculations circulating on social media in both Persian and English one day after the incident about missiles having been fired at the passenger aircraft. Didn't Twitter savvy media officials at Rouhani's office, such as his media adviser Hesamoddin Ashna, tell the president anything about those speculations?

A day after the aircraft was downed by IRGC, international media quoted U.S. officials as having said that the aircraft was downed by missiles. Didn't Rouhani know about those reports? The president receives bulletins on current affairs on a daily basis. Didn't those reports say anything about the attack on the aircraft?

Let us assume that Rouhani generally knew what had happened, but military officials did not give him the details. The more important but still simple question is that didn't Rouhani and his administration know that passenger aircraft were allowed to fly while a missile attack on a coalition military base in Iraq was going on? Can the authorization for civilian flights be issued without cooperation and coordination with government officials?

One of the key discussions of these days is that the Iranian government authorized passenger flights in order to create a human shield to prevent a possible attack by U.S. forces in retaliation for the IRGC's missile attack. Didn't the Rouhani administration know about this? The authorization to allow civilian flights is issued by the Iranian Civil Aviation Organization. To say the least, the organization under the command of the presidential administration plays a major part in letting passenger aircraft fly.

If the Rouhani administration did not know about the matter, or if it had called for cancelling civilian flights and the IRGC or Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei rejected the request, Rouhani could have mentioned that in a statement or a speech later.

If he does not point this out, or if he took part in allowing passenger aircraft to fly, in fact he is an accomplice as one of the main individuals who shares responsibility in this catastrophe. Whether he was kept in the dark later or he knew only part of the story does not change anything in terms of his responsibility for allowing the flight to take off in what was in essence a war situation.

In the second step, evaluating Rouhani's performance after he found out about the matter is also important. When the IRGC disclosed what had happened, Rouhani said that it was not an error by an individual and the matter should be investigated. But his statement was not taken seriously. Eventually, Javad Zarif, Rouhani's foreign minister said that the officer who pushed the button to fire the missiles was in jail and portrayed this as an achievement. This means the Rouhani administration limited the matter to an individual's error and accepted it as such.

Rouhani's call for forming a special court to sort out the incidnt was also ignored and the case is being investigated at an extremely low pace at the armed forces' court.

On the other hand, Ukrainian and Canadian officials' request for sending the aircraft's flight recorders to France for investigation was rejected by the Iranian government, or the Rouhani administration's Ministry of Roads and Urban Planning to be precise.

In other words, the Rouhani administration is in a partnership with the IRGC as it creates further ambiguities and obstructs independent and transparent investigation of the case in the face of international community's demands.

At the same time that the Rouhani administration claimed it did not know about the downing of the aircraft, it remains responsible for allowing passenger aircraft to fly while a missile attack was going on. Now that it knows everything, it is still partnering with the IRGC in misleading investigators and obstructing independent and transparent investigation.

This clear and continuous partnership seriously casts doubt and questions the assumption that the Rouhani administration's approach differs from that of the IRGC.

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    Reza Haqiqatnezhad

    Reza Haqiqatnezhad was a well-known journalist in Iran until he left the country a few years ago and he is now a political analyst at Radio Farda.