Report says a “highly significant” piece of new evidence shows Iran may have purposefully shot down the passenger plane killing all 176 aboard.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Canada’s national news service reported Tuesday that the Canadian government has obtained new evidence that appears to indicate Iran’s shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane last year may have been deliberate.
Security officials are reviewing an audio recording in which a man who may be Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif talks about the possibility that the shooting down of Ukraine Airlines Flight PS752 by the Iranian military was intentional, CBC News reported.
Iranian forces fired two anti-aircraft missiles at the plane on January 8, 2020, blowing it out of the sky near the capital city Tehran and killing all 176 people aboard, including 63 Canadian citizens and another 75 with ties to Canada.
The incident was considered a national disaster and Canada designated Jan. 8 as a new National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Air Disasters.
The recording appears to be the voice of Zarif speaking in Farsi and CBC used three different translators to ensure the accuracy of the English translation. Zarif is heard saying that there are a “thousand possibilities” to explain the downing of the jet, including a deliberate attack involving two or three “infiltrators” — a scenario he said was “not at all unlikely,” the report said.
However, Zarif also says that in order not to reveal military secrets the government and Iran’s powerful military may never reveal what actually happened.
“There are reasons that they will never be revealed,” Zarif says in the recording. “They won’t tell us, nor anyone else, because if they do it will open some doors into the defense systems of the country that will not be in the interest of the nation to publicly say.”
The government’s special adviser on the Flight PS752 disaster, Ralph Goodale, said the recording “contains sensitive information and commenting publicly on its details could put lives at risk,” the report said, adding Canada’s security agencies were trying to authenticate the audio file.
“We understand in a very acute way the thirst among the families for the complete, plain, unvarnished truth and that’s what we will do our very best to get for them,” Goodale told the CBC.
After denying for three days its military was involved, Iran then admitted it shot down the plane and claimed it was due to human error.
Canada’s former foreign affairs minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, has said he does not believe the destruction of the plane can be blamed on human error.
Zarif is heard on the recording first saying the incident was an accident, but then suggested it was possible that unspecified “infiltrators” intentionally shot down the plane.
“Even if you assume that it was an organized intentional act, they would never tell us or anyone else,” the person identified as Zarif said. “There would have been two three people who did this. And it’s not at all unlikely. They could have been infiltrators. There are a thousand possibilities. Maybe it was really because of the war and it was the radar.”
The voice, still thought to be Zarif, then says that “these things are not going to be revealed easily” by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or those higher up in the government and mentioned that Russia never admitted to shooting down a Malaysian airliner over Eastern Ukraine that killed all 298 on board.
The person talking refers several times to Iran paying compensation to the victims’ families to close “the issue” and to prevent other countries from turning the disaster into “an international crime.”
Goodale’s official report on the incident that was released in December said Canada still hadn’t seen “full disclosure… on all relevant evidence” from Iran, which proposed paying $150,000 for each of the victims’ families, but Canada rejected that offer.
A former UN prosecutor at the court of arbitration in The Hague, Payam Akhavan, told the CBC the recording is a “highly significant” piece of new evidence, but that it is not a “smoking gun” offering conclusive proof that the aircraft’s destruction was intentional.
“The fact that he would say in a conversation that it is not at all unlikely that the destruction of 752 could have been organized and intentional is highly significant,” said Akhavan. “The fact that he sees that as a real possibility, I think, should make us pause and really consider whether there’s not something far more diabolical at play.”
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko said it was the first time Ukraine has heard about the recording, telling the CBC: “We do not want to see the truth being hidden behind state secrecy. We want to get to the bottom of this.”
“I think we are still so far away from having a clear picture on what happened… We obviously lack trust in our conversation with Iran. I think we have a feeling that Iran shares as little information as possible,” Shevchenko said.
“I think we should all realize that this report can confirm that the plane was hit by a missile, but it’s not going to tell us who pushed the button,” Shevchenko concluded.