On Thursday, Newsweek was the first U.S. media outlet to cite an anonymous Pentagon official, an anonymous senior U.S. intelligence official, and an Iraqi intelligence official in a report claiming the Ukrainian jet that crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran was struck by an anti-aircraft missile system.
Newsweek’s report comes on the heels of a Reuters report which indicated that the crash of flight PS752 had “suffered a technical malfunction and was not shot down.” According to Times of Israel, the report quoted five unnamed security sources, three Americans, one European and one Canadian, as saying the initial assessment is that Iran’s explanation is accurate. However, an unnamed U.S. official later told Reuters that U.S. satellites detected the launch of two missiles before the plane crashed.
Shortly after Newsweek’s revelations began making waves, former Newsweek journalist Tareq Hadded tweeted the following:
— Tareq Haddad (@Tareq_Haddad) January 9, 2020
On Tuesday, Hadded criticized the outlet’s new editor-at-large in a tweet, pointing out that Javeed Jamali is a former spy “with absolutely no background in real journalism.”
Wow, now that we're going to war, a former spy is going to be in charge of a mainstream publication, with absolutely no background in real journalism. You tell me if something is wrong with the media or not. Or the state of America and the wider Western world for that matter. https://t.co/TSqAhOBCRo
— Tareq Haddad (@Tareq_Haddad) January 7, 2020
Last month, Hadded resigned from his position at Newsweek after the outlet impeded his attempts at publishing leaked documents related to a massive scandal at the U.N.-backed chemical weapons board, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Hadded explains on his website:
“The documents showed that the non-political scientists were unhappy that their findings from an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria had been doctored and were changed to say that chlorine was present when it had not been—among other things—leading to implications that the U.S., U.K. and France launched an attack on the country on false grounds.
As attempts to publish this story failed, I discovered serious corruption at Newsweek: editors at the publication had links to the U.S. State Department and to powerful lobby groups who profited from war, thus leading to their decision to suppress the story. This is a major breach of journalism ethics and raises serious questions about freedom of press.”
Mainstream media in the United States often sources unverified information coming from anonymous officials rather than questioning their narratives and statements. These same outlets often employ or work closely with intelligence and Pentagon officials, either publicly or in back channels. Thanks in part to Haddad’s bravery and hard work, more proof of these relationships exist. As Hadded said himself, “Freedom of the press is dead.”
It is in this same vein that skepticism of Newsweek’s reporting Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 must be met with skepticism, especially considering the report from Reuters only shortly before.
Plane crashed while in flames after takeoff in Tehran. Be very, VERY skeptical of everything you hear about this one. The US and its allies have an extensive history of using false flags to advance preexisting military agendas, and the environment is certainly ripe for one today. https://t.co/03CBSQLuPA
— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) January 8, 2020
Here’s what we do know:
A Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed only minutes after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport en-route to Kiev, killing all 176 people on board. According to witnesses, the plane appeared to turn back or steer out of the way of a residential area before ultimately hitting the ground in a ball of flames. Footage purportedly showing the plane, already in flames, spread across social media.
— Ali Hashem علي هاشم (@alihashem_tv) January 8, 2020
As day broke, video and images of the large crash site were also made available.
— Aviation Newsroom (@Aviation_NewsTW) January 8, 2020
Images purportedly show crash site of #Ukraine International Airline flight number #PS752 that went down in #Iran shortly after take off from Tehran. Iranian state TV reports a technical error cause the plane to crash. pic.twitter.com/vgGTS7QbCR
— emma (@bymyelf) January 8, 2020
Initial reports indicated that the Boeing 737-800 suffered a technical problem that lead to the fiery crash. Radar contact with the plane was lost at an altitude of about 8,000 ft (2,400 m). And while the pilot did not make a radio distress call, the Iranian aviation authority said it “turned right following a problem and was headed back to the airport at the moment of the crash,” corroborating eyewitness reports.
Iran’s aviation authority quickly announced that, while it is customary to provide the black box to the aircraft’s manufacturer in the event of a crash, it will neither be providing the flight recorders to Boeing or to U.S. aviation authorities.
While this decision is eliciting sharp criticism, Iran’s parliament on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill designating U.S. forces as “terrorists.” Reframing these events may be helpful in understanding why Iran may be reluctant to share the flight recorders—even without accusations flying, it is safe to say that the United States would not hand over something as important as a black box from a crashed airliner to ISIS or al-Qaeda to aid in the investigation.
It should also be noted that, while Boeing is indeed the manufacturer of the crashed airliner, it is also an American weapons manufacturer headquartered in Chicago, IL that just so happens to profit from war by designing, manufacturing, and selling airplanes, satellites, telecommunications equipment, rockets, and missiles across the globe. In fact, Boeing’s stock jumped immediately following Iran’s early morning ballistic missile attack on the U.S. military’s Ayn al-Asad in Iraq.
And while Iran is not sharing the flight recorders with the United States or Boeing, it is sharing them with authorities from other countries who have a stake in the crash, including Ukraine and Canada. In a statement issued on Wednesday, authorities from the two countries vowed to identify the cause of the deadly crash that killed 63 Canadians.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said:
“Our government will continue to work closely with its international partners to ensure that … [the crash] is thoroughly investigated, and that Canadians’ questions are answered.”
Thursday afternoon, Trudeau cited intelligence reports when he directly accused Iran of unintentionally shooting down the ill-fated flight.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky is warning against “speculation or unchecked theories regarding the catastrophe.” Unfortunately today’s headline’s and television talking heads are spouting nothing but speculation.
Zelensky also said:
“All possible versions of what occurred must be examined.”
Save for not including the United States or Boeing in the investigation, Iran appears to be making an effort to be transparent throughout the investigation process.
On Thursday, Abedzadeh explained to CNN that Iran may indeed need outside help to investigate, but that “Iran has the potential and know-how to decode the black box. Everybody knows that.”
Abedzadeh revealed that Ukrainian Aviation experts arrived in Tehran on Thursday and will “start decoding the data” of the Boeing 737’s black box that, according to Abedzadeh, is “damaged.”
“If the available equipment is not enough to get the content,” Iran will outsource help from “experts from France or Canada.”
“Then whatever is the result will be published and publicized to the world,” Abedzadeh added.
During a Thursday White House event, U.S. President Donald Trump said that he has “suspicions” about what happened to the ill-fated airliner but appears to agree with Iran about the possibility of France’s involvement:
“Ideally they’d give it to Boeing, but if they gave it to France or if they gave it to some other country that would be okay, too.”
Trump denied that it had anything to do with the United States, saying:
“Somebody could have made a mistake on the other side … not our system. It has nothing to do with us.”
The U.S. president concluded by saying, “Something very terrible happened, very devastating.”
Unverified video claiming to show the midair explosion of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 surfaced on the chat platform Telegram, but not until after U.S. intelligence reports indicated that the airliner was shot down. The Telegram post read:
“The footage i’ve got from a source – the moment the missile hit the Flight PS752. I can’t verify the video yet! but please let me know if you find anything. I’m in contact with the person who send this video to see if I can get a version of video which has a meta data on it or at least show its a same location…”
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) January 9, 2020
In the midst of the early morning attack, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency restriction for airspace in and around Iran due to “potential for miscalculation or mis-identification.” And important question that has yet to be answered is, regardless of what brought down Ukrainian flight PS752, why was a passenger airline flying so soon after an attack that may very well have warranted retaliation from the United States?
As the narrative appears to be shifting by the minute, with new details emerging at unprecedented speed, it is important to heed Zelensky’s warning and stray from “speculation or unchecked theories” examining “all possible versions of what occurred.”
It is also important to not look at events such as this in a vacuum. Instead, a full understanding of the breadth conflict between the United States and Iran must be considered, including the 1988 downing of Iran Air Flight 655, in which an American Cruiser, the USS Vincennes, reportedly mistook the passenger jet for an enemy flighting, ultimately killing at 290 people on board, including 66 children.