Is the world running out of patience with Tehran?

In the week following the release of its final report on the shooting of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, the Iranian regime has drawn international criticism for obscuring key facts and avoiding significant blame. At the core of the dispute is a small group of nations that has spent more than a year seeking justice for PS752’s victims, writes UANI Executive Director David Ibsen.

After 430 days of waiting, the Islamic Republic of Iran has concluded its investigation into the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 with a report so anodyne that it is little more than an insult to the memory of the tragedy’s 176 victims.

For the governments who have so valiantly pursued justice on the behalf of bereaved families, Tehran’s whitewashing of the affair is an affront that is unlikely to be ignored.

On Saturday, March 13th, 430 days after the shooting down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 by the Iranian military, the Civil Aviation Organisation of Iran (CAOI) released its ‘final report’ on the incident.

Given the length of time investigators required to complete their work, one might have been forgiven for expecting them to reach a more substantial conclusion. Instead, they determined that nobody was to blame. A lowly missile operator, they said, “misidentified” the plane as hostile and fired two successive missiles at it without any authorisation from a superior commander. The killing of 176 civilians was reduced to a mere office mishap.

“This is not a report, it is a collection of manipulations, the goal of which is not to establish the truth, but to whitewash the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday. He was joined in his criticism by Canadian Foreign and Transport Ministers Marc Garnau and Omar Alghabra, who noted, in a joint statement, that “the report makes no attempt to answer critical questions about what truly happened. It appears incomplete and has no hard facts or evidence.”

This is not the Iranian regime’s first attempt to wash its hands of responsibility for the Flight 752 tragedy. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, it stated unequivocally that mechanical failure had been to blame. After this lie was exposed, the regime went on to claim that it had charged six individuals over the incident. Yet, their names and details of their offenses have never been disclosed. Meanwhile, more than a dozen Iranian nationals have been arrested simply for acknowledging the government’s complicity in shooting down the aircraft.

It is probable that Tehran would never have conducted even a desultory “investigation” into the events of January 8th 2020 but for the tireless efforts of a small group of nations working together to achieve justice for the citizens they themselves lost in the crash.

Two days after the downing of Flight 752, the Canadian government announced the formation of an International Coordination and Response Group for families of the Flight 752 victims. Joining the Canadians – who lost 63 of their citizens in the disaster – were the governments of Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom, who between them lost 31 citizens.

Over the past 14 months, the Coordination Group has relentlessly pressurised Tehran to abide by the basic standards of behaviour expected of a government in its position. While the CAOI’s weak conclusions must surely have come as a blow to those involved, it is important that we do not lose sight of the Coordination Group’s significant successes to date.

Not only did Tehran abandon its lies about the origins of the crash a mere two days after the group was founded, in the months that followed it was also forced into negotiations around compensation for victims’ families and even made to hand over Flight 752’s ‘black boxes’ for an independent investigation, which may yet contradict the claims that have been put forth by the CAOI.

So while the Iranian government has clearly failed to produce a transparent and thorough report into the Flight 752 affair, the Coordination Group has already achieved a great deal in forcing the regime to comply with international standards to the extent that it has.

In attempting to brush the events of January 8th 2020 under the proverbial carpet, Tehran has only added to the international community’s growing impatience with a regime that observes not even the most basic standards expected of respectable nation states.

Even the UK government, which continued to support the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despite pressure from President Trump, is showing signs of a hardening attitude. On 16 March, Downing Street published a major military strategy review which singled out Tehran as a threat and called for a “more comprehensive nuclear and regional deal” to constrain the regime.

The Islamic Republic evidently imagined it could draw a curtain on the Flight 752 tragedy by publishing a watered down and toothless report. The reality is that the regime has merely added another layer of distrust between it and the international community.

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