January 25, 2020

Iran has undoubtedly left many impressed with their guilty plea over the missile hit that downed the Ukrainian passenger jet flight PS752. But there remains a feeling of certain unwholesomeness as if something has been left out from the official reports.

What if Tehran’s true intentions are not about opting for a worthy and civilized behavior but simply cold calculation of possible losses from concealing own guilt or that of a third party?

What if it’s about minimizing consequences that will boil down to an apology, compensation, and nothing beyond?

While offering a “sorry” and paying victims’ families the easiest part of the game, what about a more difficult level, namely, an unbiased investigation and honest answers to emerging, and quite difficult questions?

For example, what will the investigation say about the crew of the Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missile launcher. Who will they say ultimately took up responsibility for launching the missile and what was the sequence of decision-making? It will be also interesting to know if the Tor crew were with the IRGC or representing a “third party”? In this case, this means Russia because it’s not uncommon that Russia’s exported or modernized AA systems are serviced for a certain period by Russian instructors and technical personnel both for staff training and identifying possible flaws.

In the context of the Russian footprint in this case, it is also very important to know if there was any external interference in the air defense system and is it possible to remotely control the launcher.

Or perhaps, is it possible for an external player to mislead the crew? It’s about target identification, tracking and locking.

It is also possible that it wasn’t the AA system that was hacked but rather the radar that was penetrated to transmit false data. After all, on the night when the Ukrainian airliner was shot down near the Tehran Airport, many other commercial jets successfully and took off and landed.

Prior to the deadly launch by the Tor-M1 AA system, its crew saw on radars multiple objects with parameters similar to those of the Ukrainian passenger plane, ascending on the same route.

It would also be curious to see the conclusion on the performance of the Ukrainian airliner’s transponder and whether there was any interference in its work. After all, such interference could result in the AA system “seeing” a civilian aircraft as a warplane or a cruise missile.

There are many questions yet to be answered. But the vital one is whether Iran is ready to seek answers. Why is it vital, you might ask? Well, probably it’s because if Russians are actually capable of remotely influencing operations of their anti-aircraft systems they sell to other countries, it turns out that any commercial jet flying in those countries’ airspace.

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