By The Saker
January 14, 2020 "Information
Clearing House" - When you go to
vet school, they teach you a simple principle:
if you are under a bridge and you hear hooves, think
of horses first, but don’t forget there are also
zebras out there.
This is exactly what comes to my mind when I hear
all the speculation about the shooting down of the
Ukrainian airliner by a IRGC SAM.
Let’s begin with a few horses:
Seems to me that the most logical assumption and
assume human error, especially since the Iranian
have already admitted full responsibility.
Furthermore, there is no imaginable reason for the
Iranian to have shot down this aircraft deliberately
(did you know that most of the passengers were
either Iranian nationals or of Iranian descent?).
Next, for the life of me I don’t see how Iran can
be accused of trying to hide the truth when then
admitted full responsibility even long before the
investigation was concluded. Not only that, but HAD
they wanted to hide the truth, it would have been
extremely simple, really: they were in FULL control
of a war zone. They could have ejected all
civilians and claimed that the US had bombed the
location to conceal its role, or something equally
insipid. Instead, they first said “show us your
evidence” and then they declared “we will show you
OUR evidence which shows OUR guilt”. Compare that
with what the US does when it shoots down and
airliner (either when they admit it, like the Iran
Air 665, or when they cover it up, like TWA 800 or
Itavia Flight 870 or, even more crucially, all the
CIVILIAN Soviet airliners shot down over Afghanistan
by CIA run insurgents!).
As for the protests, they are simply yet another
sign that, just as in Russia and the USA, Iran has a
5th column which is willing to make use of
absolutely ANY pretext to try to overthrow the legal
government. A gas explosion in downtown Tehran, or a
train wreck, or even a local tornado – for these
folks anything is just one more
pretext to overthrown the Islamic
Republic and hand their country over to Uncle Shmuel.
So what else is new? We see the exact same 5th
columnist all over the globe.
As for Trump chiming in his admiration for the
Iranian people, that is just a sign that the White
House lacks serious Iran specialists, that’s all.
As for the Idiot-in-Chief or the Malevolent Manatee
– we already know that they are as ignorant as they
are narcissistic. Again, nothing newsworthy here.
Lots of unanswered questions however.
Frankly, the story as presented by the Iranians
makes no sense to me (not because I think that they
are lying, but because there are a lot of
information holes which need to be plugged). Why
did the Iranian civil and military authorities not
close down the Iranian airspace (which the US side,
by the way, seemed to have done). Next, did the
Iranian air defenses not get all the flight plans of
all the aircraft in Iranian space? I had the
privilege to participate in a few air defense
exercises as a young man, and not only did we have
full access to all the flight plans of any civilian
aircraft over all of Europe, we even had their
transponder signals live on our main displays.
Was the Ukrainian transponder on? I strongly
suspect that yes as a PIC cannot take off without
this instrument in perfect working order (at least
this was the case with European airlines in the 80s
The commander of the SAM unit explained that he
had 10 seconds to take a decision and that he got NO
order from the higher instances (regimental,
divisional, national air defense authorities). I
don’t have any reason to doubt him, but if he indeed
speaks the truth, then this shows a glaring weakness
of the Iranian air defenses. Not only was his
audio/video call for instructions not answered, the
air defense networks were either down or frozen.
HOW could that happen in a theoretically very
redundant and highly survivable military network?!
Then there is the Ukrainian PIC. The logical
thing for him to do would have been to contact his
corporate bosses in Kiev and they might even have
contacted the Ukrainian authorities. The question
is WHO and WHY took the decision to take off when
the situation was self-evidently fantastically
Questions, questions and more questions indeed…
Now a look at zebras
Could a US drone have shot the airliner? Could
the US have conducted a cyber-attack?
Maybe. But, as I often like to remind everybody,
“possible” is very, very far form “likely”.
For example, what would be the US motive? I
don’t see one.
Why choose a Ukrainian airliner? Again, this
makes no sense to me.
Then, a cyberattack is all fine and dandy until
we look into details.
Was the putative cyberattack directed at, hmmmmm
what exactly?! The computers are radars of the
civilian ATC? The IRGC air defense network? The
specific SA-12 battery? Maybe the Ukrainian
airliner? Maybe at all of these at the same time?
Yeah, maybe. But, as I think Carl Sagan, liked
to say “extraordinary claims require
extraordinary evidence” and in this case, there
is ZERO evidence. Yes, tons of speculation, but
speculation does not amount to evidence, not even
So what are we hearing, horses or
Frankly, I would love to blame it all on the US
or Israel but, alas, I don’t see even a shred of any
real evidence supporting this hypothesis. Maybe we
will see it in the next few days, weeks or months,
and I will GLADLY admit that I was wrong. But,
alas, the way I see it is that the most logical and
likely explanation is a major, huge and most
embarrassing SYSTEMIC problem in the Iranian air
This says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about “the regime”
or about “the Mollahs” or anything else. There have
quite a few civilians airliners shot down by
mistake and even deliberately, and there will be
more. To blame “the regime” for that monumental
screw-up is simply illogical to the extreme. This
kind of misguided logic makes someone always blame
“the regime” when accidents happen in a country one
does not approve off, but only blame “fate” or the
“will of God” or even “Murphy’s Law” when (even
HUGE) accidents happen in politically
correct-countries. This is not only hopelessly
partisan, this is also infantile.
However, it is also likely that there were MANY
folks in the Iranian air defense which showed
criminal recklessness and that these shall be
punished, and not just easy fall-guys like the poor
battery commander (who took the correct decision
knowing and NOT knowing what he knew and did not
know at the time, but higher up, on the level of
both political and managerial responsibility:
colonels and generals. Not “the regime” but
SPECIFIC colonels and generals, yes.
As for the actions of “the regime” I find them
almost ideally honest, open, speedy and honorable.
In fact, almost too honorable. I understand that
the IRGC is an elite organization which will demand
that some of its leaders now “fall on their swords”,
but I am actually concerned that the Iranian
authorities are almost TOO willing to accept blame.
I still think that there are waaaay too many
unanswered questions and until we get clear answers,
including to nitty-gritty “details” answers, we
ought to wait before jumping to any conclusions.
Before I quit, let’s make one last comparison:
let’s compare how neutral, democratic, noble, and
otherwise putatively “civilized” SWITZERLAND acted
when by the TOTAL fault of Swiss Air Traffic Control
Russian passenger jet and a US cargo jet crashed
into each other over southern Germany. Look it
up yourself, and watch the excellent movie made
about the father of one of the victims.
If on that instance Switzerland truly scoped a
shameful F- then Iran deserves a solid A+, at least
in any objective comparison.
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originally published by "The
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Flight Crash Facts Not Adding Up