The downing in the early morning on January 8th by two anti-air Tor SA-15 missiles of Ukrainian International airlines Flight 752, took the lives of 176 passengers and crew. The action was a blunder credited with triggering a wave of protests across Iran. Most passengers on the ill-fated flight were Canadian ex-pat Iranians and Iranian students returning to graduate school in Canada. That triggered an embarrassing series of lies by the IRGC and cover up that at one point led to President Rouhani to threaten his resignation. It was finally resolved when supreme ruler Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the IRGC commander to take responsibility for destruction of the airliner and wrongful death of its hapless passenger. But that wasn’t the end of this debacle. It now emerges that the IRGC may have plotted to down an Iranian civilian plane and blame it on the Americans. That speculation first surfaced in an Israel News Talk Radio interview with noted Washington military technologist expert, former US Defense Department official Dr. Stephen Bryen.
Note his remarks:
Stephen Bryen: There has been a constant stream of lies coming from Iran First, they said it was a mechanical failure. Then they said the plane was heading toward a sensitive military installation. Then they said the plane turned around. Then they said the black boxes were damaged and unrecoverable. Now, why fire two missiles at a commercial jet taking off from Tehran Airport on a standard exit flight route? What’s going on here? It’s very hard to answer that question. Accident, bad decision by some local military commander, highly unlikely; because the radar image of that plane would be so large, it wouldn’t look anything like any cruise missile in anybody’s imagination. And the path of it was so well determined that they would know that.
The question is what’s really going on here, what happened, and why did it happen? I keep coming back in my mind to the theory that this was intended to be a provocation against the United States by shooting down an Iranian airline. They didn’t know it was a Ukrainian, they thought it was Iranian, this is my guess. And by doing that, it would create this horrible incident, which would set the world against the United States. That was the idea. I think it was a revolutionary guard hatched plot.
Some support for Bryen’s hypothesis came in a later New York Times report regarding the cover up by the IRGC:
Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, leader of the Revolutionary Guards aerospace division, was told of the news soon after. “I called the officials and told them this has happened and it’s highly possible we hit our own plane,” he said in a televised statement.
What followed, according to the NYT report, was an attempt by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to keep the news hidden — even from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
Rather than reporting to President Rouhani, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards report directly to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As such, General Hajizadeh and other Revolutionary Guards generals reportedly didn’t tell the Iranian president or military what they knew to be the likely truth: That Iran had accidentally fired two anti-aircraft missiles at a passenger jet, and that jet had crashed due to those missiles. As Iran publicly denied involvement in shooting down the plane, a committee was reportedly put together to investigate. Participants “were sequestered and ordered not to speak to anyone,” according to the NYT report.
Stephen Bryen is a former Staff member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1970’s who visited Iran on the cusp of the Islamic Revolution in the company of fabled Uri Lubrani, Israel’s unofficial Ambassador at the time. He left to become a Reagan Era Deputy Undersecretary of Defense. He is a noted military technology expert and Asia Times Columnist. His wife, Shoshana Bryen, is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center and editor of its inFocus Quarterly.
The following are their responses to questions regarding the assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander the late General Qasem Soleimani, and the Trump Administration political warfare strategy combating Iran and supporting the liberty of its people.
Was the Assassination of Quds Force Commander Soleimani and Iraqi proxy leaders a strategic deterrent masterstroke?
Stephen Bryen: I think was a very clever, smart, intelligent move by President Trump and the Pentagon to deal with this threat. And they dealt with it directly, and I think it’s had a tremendous effect.
Shoshana Bryen: Among the effects that you see is the empowerment of the Iranian people. The New York Times and the Washington Post would have you believe that this rebellion in Iran started with the downing of Ukrainian airliner. That is not true. It started two years ago in December of 2017 with women going out on the streets and taking off their headwear, with people going on strike, all kinds of things that were not reported heavily in the West. The killing of Soleimani, however, has focused at least some major media attention on the Iranian people. Without Soleimani, Iranians feel empowered. The demonstrations are getting larger, and that is good for us. We can’t run it. it is not our rebellion, it is theirs.
Why hasn’t the Mainstream Media reporting on Iranian protesters not stepping on US and Israeli Flags?
Shoshana Bryen: Now that the Iranian rebellion is growing, people are avoiding those painted-on flags on the sidewalks. And you can see them, there is video proof. In Iran, they go to the sites and they won’t walk on the American flag or the Israeli flag. Many people are unaware that the people of Iran were doing this, because they are reading the New York Times and the Washington Post. People aren’t seeing how brave and how forward the Iranian people have become, and that is a shame. They come out at night and they tear down signs with big pictures of Soleimani. There are still major demonstrations. in Tehran, and in many parts of the country where the government has less control than it used to have.
What was the impact of Trump’s Farsi Tweets?
Shoshana Bryen: The tweet in Farsi within hours became the top, most liked and retweeted tweet, ever in the Farsi language. I think it is a way to encourage the people of Iran to understand that we are behind them. There is no mention in there as there shouldn’t be of us in doing it, helping it, running it, financing it. None of that, but to say to the Iranian people, if you’re out there, we’re thinking about you and we’re behind you. Therefore, it is important to understand it all started in December 2017. They’ve been doing it. He’s supporting them. It’s a good thing.
Stephen Bryen: Remember the regime shut down the internet, so Trump’s Farsi tweet had a huge impact. Trump’s a genius at communications, and I think the Farsi tweet was brilliant. He understands that people follow Twitter, but they don’t follow the New York Times.
What is the the impact of US and Israeli Farsi radio and websites in Iran?
Shoshana Bryen: The US Radio Farda in Farsi is very popular in Iran. First, Farda tells the people what is happening in their own country. One of the problems with revolutions is if you don’t know what the other guys are doing, you don’t know what you can do. Second, it tells them what is happening outside their country. There are several Israeli equivalents of that, which is how Prime Minister Netanyahu talked to the Iranian people directly and told them that Israel would help Iran with its agricultural and municipal water problems. That website that he referred them to was one of the most popular ever connected to by Iranians. There was an Israeli Chief of Staff who was Iranian born and spoke Farsi. He used to do interviews from a European site, with Iranian people who would call in and talk to the Israeli Army Chief of Staff in Farsi. The Israelis are ahead of us on that and they do a good job.
Has Soleimani’s Black Bank money to proxies slowed following his assassination?
Shoshana Bryen: The money had slowed before Soleimani was killed because of the Trump Administration’s restoration of sanctions. Hezbollah had already seen a great drop in its revenues, Hamas in the Gaza strip had seen a drop in its revenues. The Syrians were hoping that Iran would do the reconstruction in Syria. All their money is gone, there is no money flowing thanks to the decision of President Trump and the US government to restore the sanctions.
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