Iran’s Zarif Says Tape On Downed Ukraine Plane Attributed To Him Is Fake
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday [February 10] insisted an audio file purportedly of him speaking about Ukrainian Flight PS752, shot down by Iranian air defenses in January 2020, had been faked but admitted he had spoken of some issues raised by recording. “I and many others insisted that all possibilities—including foreign infiltration or electronic interference—must be investigated (fake audio notwithstanding),” Zarif wrote in a tweet.
Canadian state television (CBC) has not released the recording, but reported on Tuesday that it features a man, identified by “sources” as Zarif, saying there were a “thousand possibilities” to explain the downing of the jet, including intentional action by two or three “infiltrators,” a scenario he found “not at all unlikely.”
CBC News said that the tape was under review by the Canadian government and security agencies.
Iran admitted shooting down the airliner after three days of denying knowledge of the cause. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged an “unforgivable mistake.” Air-defense missiles hit the plane shortly after take-off from Tehran, hours after Iran’s January 8 missile attacks on US bases in Iraq in retaliation for the US killing Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Qods Force in Baghdad on January 3. All 176 onboard the plane, including tens of people with Canadian citizenship or affiliations with Canada, lost their lives.
“There are reasons that they [the facts] will never be revealed,” the man in the recording says in Farsi, according to CBC. “They won’t tell us, nor anyone else, because if they do it will open some doors into the defense systems of the country that will not be in the interest of the nation to publicly say.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh rejected the authenticity of the recording. In his press briefing, Khatibzadeh said CBC’s claims were “untrue and untenable,” and argued that the “style” of the person speaking was fundamentally different from Zarif’s.
Khatibzadeh said Iranian investigators had prepared their report on the downing of Flight PS752 after consulting experts from countries such as Canada, the United States, and France, whom it had given two months to make inquiries on technical issues. “This two-month opportunity has now ended, and the questions by other countries as well as answers given by the Iranian probe team will be made public,” Khatibzadeh said.
Iran has been claiming for more than a year it was committed to expeditiously issue a comprehensive report, but Ukraine and Canada have criticized procrastination by Tehran.
According to CBC, the Canadian prime minister’s special adviser on the Flight PS752 file, Ralph Goodale, had confirmed the Canadian government had been in possession of a copy of the recording since November and had undertaken forensic examination and assessment. A report from Goodale in December recommended strengthening international rules over air disasters with a military involvement and argued the US ‘terrorist’ designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, who operated the missile system, had complicated the PS752 investigation.
Some of the families of those who died on flight 752 have made accusations of murder, implying Iran deliberately shot down what they knew was a civilian airliner. Others have made the lesser charge that Iran failed to close its airspace after the missile attack on US forces in Iraq. “The operator of the [defense] system served as a professional instructor in Iran and Syria,” tweeted Javad Soleimani, who lost his wife in the crash, in May. “How can he have made a mistake? You must ask your Leader [Ali Khamenei] why the airspace was not shut down and why other flights at the same time as the Ukrainian flight were stopped.”