It’s time for Canada to help victims of the PS752 shooting
On January 8, 2020, the Islamic Republic of Iran shot down Ukrainian flight PS752, killing 176 people, including 138 Canadian citizens, permanent residents and others with close ties to Canada.
While Tehran has called the slaughter a mistake, a recent report by the Association of Families of Victims of Flight PS752 identifies several key factors that point to a conscious decision to shoot the plane out of the sky.
According to the Association’s report, “[t]’intentional act of keeping Iranian airspace open, the technical capabilities of the Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile system and Iran’s integrated air defense network to detect hostile targets, the positioning of the Tor-M1 system close from Tehran International Airport, the cover-up of the root cause of the crash, destruction of existing evidence, and misleading reports from Iran all indicate that the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was deliberate.
The report’s findings are further evidence that Canada’s policy of purely diplomatic engagement with Tehran, without using any significant leverage, will continue to hamper Ottawa’s goal of achieving justice for the families of the victims. On the contrary, Ottawa must exert significant political and economic pressure against the regime to show that Canada is determined to uncover the whole truth and to hold Tehran accountable. Such pressure would also facilitate Ottawa’s investigation into the financial assets of the mullahs’ regime and its network of money laundering and political influence in Canada.
Two other comprehensive reports on the destruction of PS752 left the question of intentionality unanswered. Both reports, one by senior Canadian government adviser Ralph Goodale and the other by United Nations special rapporteur Agnes Callamard, condemn the Islamic Republic for its obscurity and refusal to cooperate with the efforts of the international community to investigate the assassination. Callamard also said the regime may have intentionally shot down the plane, although this theory, she said, needs further investigation.
However, the report of the association PS752 reveals that the crash of the plane was deliberate. For example, authorities in Tehran left Iranian airspace open during a period of tension between Iran and the United States, effectively using “civilian air travelers as a human shield.[s]. “The Washington-targeted assassination of General Qasem Soleimani on January 3, 2020 and Tehran’s retaliatory attack on the US military base of Al Asad in Iraq created an atmosphere of conflict which rendered Iranian airspace inherently dangerous, yet regime officials have allowed Iranian airspace to remain open, as the airspace closure may have warned US forces of impending missile attacks.
Further, the report refutes the regime’s claim that a TOR-1 missile defense operator mistook a large civilian aircraft for an American cruise missile, thereby “mistakenly” shooting down the airline. The report states that “the operator of the Tor-M1 system that shot down the aircraft had extensive experience and expertise with short-range missile systems, including his service in Syria… Given the experience of operator, it is hard to imagine that the operator could not distinguish between an alleged cruise missile and PS752.
The report also provides ample evidence that the highest levels of the Iranian government attempted to cover up the intentional slaughter of PS752. Among those officials was former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, a man often described by media and Western experts as a “moderate” member of the regime. Citing audio recordings of meetings between Zarif and other senior officials such as National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani, which were obtained by the PS752 association, the report shows that Zarif knew that Tehran intentionally shot down the plane. and participated with other senior officials in attempts to cover up the truth.
Remembering the Lives Lost on Flight PS752 by Michael Brown
According to the report, Zarif even “actively contributed to the baseless justification for the delay in handing over the black boxes” to Ukrainian officials. In one recording, Zarif claims the world will never know the truth behind the PS752 shooting because of the interests of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – the regime’s praetorians – in covering up the crime.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s belief that engaging Zarif and other Iranian officials will produce results has been proven wrong. A warm meeting between Trudeau and Zarif a few weeks after the fall of PS752, with the two smiling men shaking hands publicly, aroused concern and anguish among the families of the victims and the Canadian-Iranian community. However, the PS752 report should put an end to the Trudeau government’s engagement strategy.
Rather, the Canadian government should adopt the policies recommended by Association PS752. Ottawa should designate the IRGC, which was responsible for the assassination, as a terrorist organization. Canada should also work with the Organization of the International Civil Association to launch a global investigation into the conduct of the regime, including the identification of senior officials responsible for the destruction. In addition, Ottawa should impose Magnitsky human rights sanctions on senior Iranian officials responsible for the plane crash.
The families of the victims deserve justice, and the people of Canada and Iran deserve the truth. In Callamard’s words, “the families of the victims and indeed Iranian society… find themselves without the answers they deserve. They are still agitated in their minds again and again: how could this have happened? It is time for Canada to help Iranian Canadians and the victims of the PS752 shooting find a solution.
Alireza Nader is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he contributes to the FDD project Iranian program and Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP).
Alireza is a Troy Media Thought Leader. For interview requests, click here.
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