Iran shot down that Ukrainian plane, probably by mistake

As Scott discusses below, U.S. officials say they have “high confidence” that an Iranian antiaircraft missile brought down that Ukrainian passenger jet near Tehran. So reports the Washington Post.

The missile strike killed all 176 people aboard the plane. None was an American. More than 60 were Canadians. 82 were Iranians.

The U.S. believes that the aircraft was hit by a SA-15 surface-to-air missile, a Russian-made system. This occurred about four hours after Iran launched missiles into Iraq, in and around two U.S. bases.

The Iranians promptly claimed that the Ukrainian plane was the result of “technical problems.” However, there is no indication that the crew reported any such difficulties.

President Trump dismissed the notion that mechanical difficulties were to blame. He said “I don’t think that’s even a question.”

Trump suggested that the Iranians might have downed the plane by mistake. This seems like the most plausible explanation. It’s difficult to understand what Iran might have hoped to accomplish by shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet with no Americans and plenty of Iranians on board.

How might the Iranians have made such a mistake? They might have thought that the Ukrainian plane was a military aircraft sent to retaliate for the missile attack Iran had just launched into Iraq. Presumably, the Iranians were on high alert during the hours just after their attack.

Indeed, according to the Post, U.S. passenger airliners had been told not to fly over Iran because of the risk that they could be mistaken for military aircraft. That’s probably what happened here.

But all we know with high confidence is that Iran shot down the plane.