Tehranhas now admittedthat the Ukrainian jet that crashed near the capital on Wednesday morning was inadvertently shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched by the Iranian military.
All 298 passengers and crew on the Boeing to Kiev died in the crash of flight PS just west of Tehran .
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, tweeted: “A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by armed forces: human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster. ”
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He offered “profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations”.
Is this admission a surprise?
Yes, given the attitude of the Iranian regime during the first hours after the Tehran tragedy. What is now described as a “disastrous mistake” was initially blamed on technical problems.
Even though Iran’s military chiefs will presumably have known within minutes that one of their missiles downed the plane, officials initially denounced the West’s evidence of a shootdown as “propaganda”.
All 437 passengers and crew aboard the Boeing from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed when a surface-to-air missile was fired from rebel-held territory. In this case, as with the Iranian tragedy, a Russian missile was used.
Are planes still flying over Iran – and for that matter, Iraq?
Yes. On Friday, the Department for Transport warned UK airlines of a “potential risk from heightened military activity and dedicated anti-aviation weaponry” in both Iran and Iraq and advised carriers “not to enter the territory and airspace” of either country.
Yet plenty of flights are still using Iranian and Iraqi airspace. The Saturday morningQatar Airwaysplane from Doha to Edinburgh flew over Iran, while the Qatari airline’s Manchester flight took its usual route over Iraq.
Qatar is banned from the airspace of several countries so it has little choice but to use those routes to Europe. ButEmiratesis also using the corridors over Iraq rather than routing south across Saudi Arabia. As I write, flight EK1 from Dubai to Heathrow is between Baghdad and the Iranian frontier.
The airline, one of the biggest in the world, has extremely complex scheduling choreography. If an Emirates round-trip to Heathrow, Newcastle or Glasgow arrives back in Dubai an hour late because of an extended flight, half the intended connections may be missed.