Iran announces “arrests” in plane downing


Nancy Pelosi may not know why people are protesting in the streets of Tehran, but it appears that the leadership in Iran has figured it out. After days of demonstrations where Iranian police unleashed tear gas and live ammunition on the protesters, state media announced that “arrests” have been made in the case of the downing of that Ukranian passenger jet last week. How many arrests? Who are the suspects? Good questions, but at least thus far, nobody is saying. (Associated Press)

Iran’s judiciary said Tuesday that arrests have been made for the accidental shootdown of a Ukrainian passenger plane that killed all 176 people on board just after takeoff from Tehran last week.

The announcement came amid an upswell of anger and protests by Iranians in recent days over the downing of the jetliner last Wednesday and apparent attempts by senior officials in Iran to cover-up the cause of the crash…

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted by Iranian state media saying that “extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested.” He did not say how many individuals had been detained or name them.

So now we’ve gone from there’s no missing plane to mechanical failure to terrible mistake, finally arriving at we’re arresting some members of our own Revolutionary Guard. It’s been quite the roller coaster ride these past few days, hasn’t it?

Color me dubious when it comes to Iran’s idea of criminal justice, but in this case, the leadership seems to be in a bit of a panic. They even trotted out Hassan Rouhani to say, “This is not an ordinary case. The entire world will be watching this court.” But how will the entire world be watching if you’re not going to allow media coverage of it? For that matter, even though “extensive investigations” have been completed, you haven’t even told us how many people were arrested or who they are.

Rouhani is talking a good game, saying that multiple people are responsible and they “should be punished.” But thus far, the only person who’s been identified as being involved is Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the IRGC’s aerospace division. He’s previously said that his division “accepts full responsibility” for the shootdown and that he wished he were dead when he learned of the incident. Someone should remind Amir that you need to be careful what you wish for, particularly in Iran.

The Iranian government can’t afford to tick off the IRGC too much or their hold on power will become shaky. But at the same time, they’re dealing with massive protests in the streets and you can only arrest so many people. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, it’s not hard to imagine this ending up being a show trial where they find a few conveniently disposable IRGC troops to put in front of a judge and pay off their families to remain silent while they briefly go to jail.

I’d love to be wrong, but we have far too much experience with the Iranians to expect them to suddenly evolve into some form of a transparent, democratic institution. This is almost certainly a show being put on for the international media and to calm the angry demonstrators.

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