A poster of slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani at a memorial for the victims of the Ukrainian plane crash. Picture: AFP/Atta Kenare
A poster of slain Iranian general Qassem Soleimani at a memorial for the victims of the Ukrainian plane crash. Picture: AFP/Atta Kenare

It took some days, a couple of bulldozers and a rash of videos uploaded to the internet by ordinary citizens for Iran’s leadership to admit that one of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps air defence units shot down Ukraine International’s Flight PS 752 just after 6am on Wednesday.

Such is the age we live in, that even a draconian regime such as Tehran’s could not control the unfolding story.

Within hours, pilots and aviation pundits were poring over the pictures online, speculating that the few pieces that survived the fireball showed holes that could only have been caused by shrapnel which, in turn, could only have come from a bomb — or a missile.

The tenuous grip the regime had on the narrative evaporated the moment bulldozers cleared the crash site in front of horrified crash investigators sent from Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Iranians took to the streets in protest.

Vigils became demonstrations leavened with teargas and beatings.

Officials apologised. They said the downing of the airliner was caused by a communications failure. There is much hand-wringing and regret, even as the hunt for a scapegoat begins.

Air crashes are usually the result of a series of events and missteps which stack up until disaster is inevitable.

Hours before PS 752 began its take-off run, dozens of Iranian missiles fell on US bases in Iraq.

As a story on thedrive.com notes, it must have been a long night for Iranian soldiers who would, quite reasonably, have been anticipating a US counterstrike.

How the Tor missile battery operators thought a civilian aircraft on take-off was an attacking cruise missile or warplane will probably never be known — but that will be the story.

Then again, if Washington had not sanctioned the drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 2, Flight PS 752 would have roared safely across the dawning sky and 176 ordinary people would not be dead.

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