28/09/2020

Hundreds protested in Tehran Saturday to express their anger with Iran’s leadership

Irans leadership attempted to contain international criticism and anger at home over its admission that its armed forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner, after initially denying it.Additional security forces deployed outside a university in Tehran to prevent protests, a day after hundreds of people took to the streets of the capital Saturday to express their anger at what they called lying and incompetence by the countrys leadership.The commander of Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corpswhich was responsible for downing the Boeing Co. 737-800 airliner, killing all 176 people on boardsaid he wished he had been on board the plane so he wouldnt have felt so ashamed in front of the nation.Maj. Gen. Hossein Salamis comments, delivered in a closed session to his deputies on Sunday and reported by the semiofficial Fars news agency, appeared to be an emotional appeal aimed at alleviating some of the anger that erupted following the militarys acknowledgment.
While military officials over the weekend attempted to insulate the countrys leaders from criticism by taking responsibility, protesters directed their anger at the entire leadership.
Short-range air-defense system designed for intercepting aircraft, missiles or other projectiles
11.5 feet
Max. altitude: 3.7 miles
Max. speed: 1,900 mph
Weight: 375 pounds
Range: 7.5 miles
Manufacturer: Russia
Operated by: Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran
Operational road range: 310.7 miles
Range of radar detection: 13.6 miles
Crew: 3-4 people
11.5 feet
Max. altitude: 3.7 miles
Max. speed: 1,900 mph
Weight: 375 pounds
Range: 7.5 miles
Manufacturer: Russia
Operated by: Islamic
Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran
Operational road range: 310.7 miles
Range of radar detection: 13.6 miles
Crew: 3-4 people
Weight:
374.8 pounds
Range:
7.5 miles
Max. altitude:
3.7 miles
Max. speed:
1,800 mph
Manufacturer:
Russia
Operated by:
Islamic
Revolutionary
Guard Corps,
Iran
Operational road range: 310.7 miles
Range of radar detection: 13.6 miles
Crew: 3-4 people
Irans admission came after initially denying Western claims that the plane had been hit by an Iranian missile. The Iranian military shot down the plane Wednesday, as its air defenses were on high alert for a potential U.S. response, hours after launching missile strikes against U.S. forces in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of a top general.
As domestic anger simmered, Iran also faced fresh international criticism for its handling of Saturdays protests, during which the British ambassador to Iran was briefly detained.
The ambassador, Rob Macaire, on Sunday denied taking part in the demonstrations outside the Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran. He said he was in the area to attend a vigil for the victims of the plane crash and left as soon as people started chanting slogans, but was detained 30 minutes later. A British official told the Journal that Mr. Macaire was arrested at a barber shop while making his way back to the embassy.
He wasnt detained, but arrested as unknown foreigner in an illegal gathering, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on Twitter. When police informed me a mans arrested who claims to be UK Amb, I said IMPOSSIBLE! only after my phone conversation w him I identified, out of big surprise, that its him. 15 min later he was free.
Irans foreign ministry on Sunday summoned Mr. Macaire to remind him that the presence of foreign ambassadors in what it called illegal gatherings contradicted the Vienna Convention, and to demand an explanation from the U.K. government, according to Irans ISNA news agency.
The detention of Mr. Macaire and Irans delay in admitting to shooting down the plane threatens to strain Irans relations with its European partners, whom it relies on to avoid international isolation and to keep alive the 2015 nuclear deal, which the U.S. left in 2018. The Trump administration has imposed harsh economic sanctions aimed at forcing Iran to curtail its nuclear and conventional weapons programs and rolling back its military presence in the Middle East.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Sunday sharply rebuked Iran for the detention of the ambassador. He called it a flagrant violation of international law, implying that Irans behavior, if continued, could damage the two countries relations.
The Iranian government is at a crossroads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to de-escalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards, Mr. Raab said in a statement.
Josep Borrell, the European Unions foreign policy chief, said he was very concerned about the detention of the British ambassador. Full respect of the Vienna convention is a must. The EU calls for de-escalation and space for diplomacy, Mr. Borrell said on Twitter. The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations allows diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country.
Amid the growing international tensions, Qatari ruler Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani landed in Tehran Sunday to meet Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, his first visit since becoming emir in 2013. Qatar has good relations with both Washington and Tehran and has previously made efforts to mediate between the two.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also on Sunday visited Oman to offer his condolences for Sultan Qaboos, the Gulf states leader who was announced dead on Saturday, and to meet with his successor, Haitham bin Tariq al-Said, according to Irans foreign ministry. Oman has also in the past mediated tensions between Tehran and Washington but no further details were published about Mr. Zarifs visit.
The downing of the jet, which killed dozens of Iranians, places further pressure on Irans leadership, already challenged by the U.S. sanctions that have prompted an economic crisis and helped trigger public protests.
Irans leadership came under criticism at home for its handling of the crash, with angry protesters in Tehran chanting slogans against the military and calling for high-level resignations.
The anger stood in contrast to the massive show of national unity only days earlier, when hundreds of thousands of Iranians came together in multiday funeral processions for Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The countrys most prominent and popular military commander was killed earlier this month in a U.S. strike in Baghdad.
Irans admission came only after Ukrainian investigators on the ground found evidence that the crash was due to a missile strike, according to Ukrainian officials. They said the evidence forced Tehrans hand to admit it accidentally shot down the jet.
Flight 752s path
TEHRAN
IMAM KHOMEINI
INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT
NASIMSHAHR
DEBRIS FIELD
5,800
Iranian officials said the plane started to turn back to the airport because of a technical fault
6,800
7,350
Range of the SA-15
missile (12 km)
Tehran
PARAND
IRAN
DEBRIS FIELD
Note: All times are local. Flight path after last signal is unknown.
Flight path
10 miles
Sources: Flightradar24 (flight path); Google (image)
Renée Rigdon and Todd Lindeman/The Wall Street Journal
10 km
TEHRAN
IMAM KHOMEINI
INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT
NASIMSHAHR
DEBRIS FIELD
5,800
6,800
Iranian officials said the plane started to turn back to the airport because of a technical fault
7,350
PARAND
Range of the SA-15
missile (12 km)
Tehran
Note: All times are local. Flight path after last signal is unknown.
IRAN
DEBRIS FIELD
Sources: Flightradar24 (flight path); Google (image)
Renée Rigdon and Todd Lindeman/The Wall Street Journal
Flight path
10 miles
10 km
TEHRAN
IMAM KHOMEINI
INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT
NASIMSHAHR
DEBRIS FIELD
5,800
6,800
Iranian officials said the plane started to turn back to the airport because of a technical fault
7,350
PARAND
Range of the SA-15
missile (12 km)
Tehran
IRAN
Note: All times are local. Flight path after last signal is unknown.
DEBRIS FIELD
Sources: Flightradar24 (flight path); Google (image)
Renée Rigdon and Todd Lindeman/The Wall Street Journal
Flight path
10 miles
10 km
Range of the SA-15
missile (12 km)
Tehran
IRAN
DEBRIS FIELD
Flight path
10 miles
10 km
IMAM KHOMEINI
INTERNATIONAL
AIRPORT
TEHRAN
DEBRIS FIELD
6,800
7,350
PARAND
Iranian officials said the plane started to turn back to the airport because of a technical fault
Note: All times are local. Flight path after last signal is unknown.
Sources: Flightradar24 (flight path); Google (image)
Renée Rigdon and Todd Lindeman/The Wall Street Journal
A team of 45 experts from Ukraine arrived on the scene less than 24 hours after the crash and began sending hourly reports to Kyiv. By late Friday, based on evidence from the team and information shared by the U.S. and other Western nations, Ukraine had concluded that the most likely reason for the crash was a missile strike, according to a person familiar with the matter.
We understand why Iran has changed its position: they did not calculate how our experts [on the ground] will act, Oleksiy Danilov, the head of the countrys National Security and Defense Council, told BBC Ukraine. I think Iran understood that there was nowhere else to go, and in any case we had [the evidence].
Ukraine is continuing with its investigation of the crash, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said.
Our experts are continuing to work at the scene of the tragedy thoroughly investigate the causes and repatriate the bodies, he said. Ukrainian officials expect the bodies of the 11 Ukrainians killed in the crash to be sent to Kyiv by the end of next week.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv insisted on an official apology by Iran and expected Tehran to punish those responsible.
The Iranian acknowledgment will lessen the importance of an international investigation, which was just starting to take shape, as it rules out the role of any mechanical issue resulting in the disaster.
The downing of the Ukrainian jet isnt the first time tensions between the U.S. and Iran have led to an aviation tragedy. In 1988, the U.S. Navys Vincennes warship downed Iran Air Flight 655 with an air-defense missile.
U.S. officials said they mistook the Airbus SE A300 airliner for a warplane they feared would attack the ship. All 290 people, mostly Iranian, on the plane died, prompting an outpouring of national grief in Iran. The U.S. agreed to pay compensation to Iranian victims nearly a decade after the incident.
—Georgi Kantchev in Kyiv and Rory Jones in Dubai contributed to this article
Write to Sune Engel Rasmussen at sune.rasmussen@wsj.com
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