Iran admits to unintentionally shooting down Ukrainian plane
No American or coalition forces were present at the Balad Air Base in Iraq at the time of the attack today, according to a US military official.
Eight Katyusha rockets hit the base, wounding four Iraqi air force officers, according to a statement released by the Iraqi military.
During an open session of Iran's parliament in Tehran today, Hossein Salami, the chief commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), apologized for the mistake committed by the country’s defense system for shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane.
“We did made a mistake. Some of our compatriots were martyred because of our mistake but it was unintentional," Salami said about Iran admitting it unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian plane.
The IRGC commander added: “In my all lifetime I haven’t been as sorry as much as now. Never.”
“I wish I had been on board and burned with them," Salami said. “May God forgive us and then after than Iranian people and the family of the victims forgive us. And we for this incident, we were determined all the more to make it up."
Eight Katyusha rockets hit Iraq’s Balad Air Base today, wounding four Iraqi air force officers, according to a statement released by the Iraqi military.
Balad Air Base hosts US troops and foreign contractors. It is located about 46 miles north of Baghdad.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the US for the “current turbulent situation” and called for the strengthening of relations between countries in the region, in excerpts of a statement posted today.
According to excerpts posted on Khamenei’s official website following a meeting with Qatar’s leader Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Iran’s Supreme Leader said.
"The reason for the current turbulent situation in our region is the corruptive presence of the US. and its cohorts. The only way to confront this is to depend on cooperation within the region," Khamenei said.
House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff responded to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper's interview, calling Esper's characterization of the classified briefing on Iran "just plain wrong," Schiff said "On Face the Nation" this morning.
Schiff went on to say there was no discussion of their being four embassies under threat and the he doesn't recall the briefers giving any specifics about a plotted attack on the US embassy in Baghdad.
Schiff said that Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are "overstating and exaggerating what the intelligence shows," warning that is dangerous. Schiff said that other members of the "Gang of Eight" were unsatisfied with the evidence the administration presented suggesting attacks were imminent.
Other topics discussed: The interview briefly touched on impeachment, dodging a question on whether he will be one of the House's impeachment managers, saying it is Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision and that he will play whatever role she has planned for him. Schiff also said the House is "considering" subpoenaing John Bolton, President Trump's former national security adviser, to testify.
Iran’s recent strike on US forces at the Iraqi al-Asad base “means that all American bases are a target,” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said during a live televised speech today.
“I am sure his (Trump) advisers told him if you strike Iran, they will strike all of our bases in the region…we are not able to protect to them,” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah said President Trump “lied to his people” when he stated that Iran was planning to target American embassies saying Soleimani “was not planning to bomb American embassies.”
Nasrallah went on to say the strike on al-Asad base was a “slap, not the answer,” to the killing of Qasem Soleimani.
Nasrallah praised Soleimani for his role in the “resistance," including in Lebanon, noting that the Iranian commander quickly learned Arabic to communicate with Hezbollah and said he had an instrumental role to play in the conflict with Israel during the 2000s.
Around 150 people gathered for a pro-regime demonstration outside the main gate of Tehran University today, one day after social media videos appeared to show thousands of protesters chanting anti-regime slogans in the aftermath of Iran’s admission that it mistakenly shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight #PS752, an eyewitness told CNN.
The pro-government protesters also performed congregational prayers, the eyewitness said.
A second eyewitness said he heard the crowd chanting slogans in support of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a key target of protester anger during Saturday’s protests.
The same eyewitness said that regular police, riot police, Revolutionary Guard, and plain clothes officers were all seen stationed near Amirkabir University and are going in and out of nearby streets.
Night is falling in Tehran and it is unclear whether there will be a second night of anti-regime protestors.
Thousands of anti-government protesters gathered on Saturday outside the gates of Amir Kabir University, near the former US embassy in Tehran, to denounce the plane crash the government had blamed on human error and "US adventurism."
In a video posted on social media, protesters chanted for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for those responsible for downing the plane to be prosecuted. "Death to the dictator," some chanted. In one video, demonstrators chanted, "Khamenei have shame. Leave the country."
Security forces have been deployed in key areas of the capital, including Azadi Square near Sharif University, Engelab (Revolution) Square near Tehran University, and Ferdousi Square near some
Fully equipped riot police were on patrol, accompanied by water cannons and long black vehicles that are sometimes used as mobile detention centers.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper believes, as the President also said, that four US embassies were being targeted by the Iranians for attack but said he couldn’t discuss any intelligence that the US had regarding that threat, Esper told CNN’s “State of the Union” today.
“There was intelligence that they had, there was an intent to target the US embassy in Baghdad. What the President said with regard to the four embassies is what I believe as well. He said he believe that they probably, that they could have been targeting the embassies in the region. I believe that as well as did other national security team members. That is why I deployed thousands of additional paratroopers to the region to reinforce our embassy in Baghdad and to reinforce other locations throughout the region,” Esper told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
American officials have said the threat information against the US Embassy in Baghdad was the most specific.
While President Trump Friday told Fox News “I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies,” Esper said repeatedly was not going to discuss specific intelligence.
“It’s the President’s prerogative, but what the president said was he believed, he said he could have been targeting. All those things that I believe as well, that the national security team believes as well,” Esper said today.
Asked if the embassies at risk were alerted, he all embassies were put on alert.
When asked about the use by the President and other officials of the word “imminent” to describe the threat, Esper said the information US officials had met his definition because it was believed an attack was “days away.”
Regarding some Democratic members complaining there was no information about the embassies threat in the congressional briefings they received from administration officials, Esper said there were more specific intelligence given to the so-called congressional “Gang of 8,” which is the top leaders and intelligence committee officials in both the House and Senate.
President Trump took to Twitter this morning to warn Iranian leaders to "NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS" following a series of anti-government demonstrations in Tehran on Saturday.
"Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching. Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!" Trump tweeted.
Trump sent a similar tweet Saturday afternoon instructing Iran to "allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people."
Some of the protesters Saturday could be heard chanting “Khamenei have shame. Leave the country" after Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had urged Iran’s Armed Forces to investigate the “possible shortcomings” that led to the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane on Wednesday.
Read Trump's tweet from today below: