Tehran: Protesting the shootdown of a Ukraine International Airlines jet January 2020
Tehran: Protesting the shootdown of a Ukraine International Airlines jet January 2020 Reuters

Iran has arrested those accused of shooting down a passenger plane and has arrested 30 people who protested the downing of the plane as well. The protests and arrests were prompted by a mistaken rocket attack on a Ukrainian airliner last Wednesday which claimed 176 lives.

In a rare expression of culpability that could only be laid at the feet of his military forces, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday called the disaster an “unforgivable error” that would be fully investigated.

Internationally, Germany, France, and Britain announced that Iran had violated terms of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and that a contractual stipulation in the agreement for redressing these violations would be activated. Russia, China, and the United States were also signatories to the deal, which was set aside by the Trump administration in 2018.

Tehran has been under increasing pressure both internationally and domestically since its paramilitary leader, Qassem Soleimani, responsible for numerous terrorist acts in the region and beyond, was eliminated by missiles fired from an American drone at Baghdad International Airport on January 3.

Shortly thereafter, the Ukrainian airliner was shot down and the Iranian regime initially denied responsibility but on Saturday confessed to its error. This had occurred just hours after Iran had targeted United States bases situated in Iraq.

The rare admission of guilt on the part of President Rouhani was followed by protests that have been brutally suppressed. Many of the protesters have been college students shouting “Clerics get lost!” and demanding the ouster of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the de facto ruler of Iran for the past 30 years.

These protests follow in the wake of the most violent demonstrations against the regime since the deposition of the Shah and the takeover by radical Islamic clerics in the revolution of 1979. Just last November, more than 1,000 protesters were killed in confrontations with Iranian security forces after austere economic measures had been introduced.

As for the victims of the plane crash, Iran apologized for the deaths of “a few Canadians” when 57 Canadians had actually died. Iran’s lack of candor in this matter was labeled “nonsense” by Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who registered his displeasure with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. For merely attending a vigil for the flight victims, British ambassador Rob Macaire was labeled an “undesirable element” and threatened with expulsion from Iran.