The latest on Iran plane crash

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2:12 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Iran accuses US of "big lie" over cause of Ukrainian plane crash

Iran urged the United States on Friday to wait for the results of the investigation into the crash of a Ukrainian airliner and dismissed as "a big lie" allegations coming from US officials that missiles downed the plane, Iranian state media reported, quoting a government spokesman.

"No one will assume responsibility for such a big lie once it is known that the claim had been fraudulent," government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said in a statement, according to state-run Press TV.

"It is unfortunate that the psychological operation of the US government, and those supporting it knowingly and unknowingly, are adding insult to the injury of the bereaved families and victimizing them for certain goals by propagating such fallacies," he added.

Rabiei said according to international rules, the aviation organization of the country where the incident occurred (Iran), the aviation organization of the country that issued qualification for the flight (Ukraine), the owner of the plane (Ukraine), the factory builder of the plane (Boeing) and the factory builder of the engine of the plane (France) can take part in the investigation of the incident.

A delegation from Ukraine is already in Iran, Rabiei said. "We also welcome the participation of all countries which have lost their nationals in the mishap," he added.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Press TV on Thursday night, the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization Ali Abedzadeh also rejected as "illogical rumors" reports that the Ukrainian plane that crashed south of the capital Tehran on Wednesday was hit by missiles.

CNN reported earlier Thursday that the US increasingly believes Iran mistakenly shot down the airliner, according to multiple US officials. The working theory is based on continuing analysis of data from satellites, radar and electronic data collected routinely by US military and intelligence.

2:28 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

How Pompeo convinced Trump to kill Soleimani and fulfilled a decade-long goal

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for a briefing with members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the situation with Iran, at the U.S. Capitol on January 8.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for a briefing with members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the situation with Iran, at the U.S. Capitol on January 8. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a driving force behind President Donald Trump's decision to kill a top Iranian general, sources inside and around the administration tell CNN, a high-stakes move that demonstrates Pompeo's status as the most influential national security official in the Trump administration. 

Taking Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani "off the battlefield" has been a goal for the top US diplomat for a decade, several sources told CNN.

Targeting Iran's second most powerful official -- the leader of the Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, the politically and economically powerful military group with regional clout -- was Pompeo's idea, according to a source from his inner circle. That source said the secretary brought the suggestion to Trump. Pompeo "was the one who made the case to take out Soleimani, it was him absolutely," this source said.

Read more here

2:32 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Australian PM says Iran plane crash "not an intentional act"

ABC via Reuters
ABC via Reuters

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday the downing of a Ukrainian plane in Tehran "does not suggest an intentional act."

His comments come after multiple US officials have said the US increasingly believes that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner on Wednesday.

"Australia has received similar intelligence to that which has been spoken to by both the Prime Minister of Canada and from the United States," Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

"It is just a terrible, terrible event and we'll provide whatever support we can."

The Australian Prime Minister also called for a probe into the disaster, saying "it is absolutely critical that full and transparent investigation is undertaken into this terrible event and that would include undertaking all efforts to ensure we get recovery of the black box recorder that can obviously inform that investigation."

Australia’s flag carrier, Qantas, said earlier this week it is "adjusting its flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the airspace over Iraq and Iran until further notice."

1:02 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

In the US, the House passed a resolution to limit military action against Iran

House TV
House TV

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted to approve a resolution aimed at restraining the President's ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval, amid simmering tensions between the US and the country.

The vote was 224-194. Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Francis Rooney of Florida crossed party lines to vote in favor while Democratic Reps. Max Rose of New York, Ben McAdams of Utah, Anthony Brindisi of New York, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma and Stephanie Murphy of Florida voted against the resolution.

Now that the resolution has passed the House it will next go to the Senate.

What you need to know about the resolution: The structure of the House resolution is unique, however, calling into question whether it is actually legally binding. It was introduced as a concurrent resolution, a type of resolution often used for "sense of Congress" bills. They don't go to the President for a signature, and they aren't legally binding.

But House Democrats are arguing that concurrent resolutions under the War Powers Act are a special case, and they are legally binding. Republicans, however, say the resolution is not binding. 

Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst and freshman Democrat, is the sponsor of the resolution, which calls on the President "to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran" unless Congress declares war or enacts "specific statutory authorization."

1:12 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Get caught up: What you need to know about the ongoing Iran-US tension

People participate in a protest in Times Square against military conflict with Iran on Jan. 8 in New York City.
People participate in a protest in Times Square against military conflict with Iran on Jan. 8 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The US increasingly believes that Iran mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian airliner, according to multiple US officials. CNN is told this could be a fog of war incident, and Iran may have believed it was under attack.

Here's a quick recap of the US-Iran crisis that has increased tensions in the Middle East:

  • Dec. 27: A rocket attack believed to be linked to a Shiite militia group, backed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, killed a US civilian contractor and wounded several US and Iraq military personnel on a base near Kirkuk, Iraq.
  • Dec. 29: According to the Pentagon, US forces conducted airstrikes at five facilities in Iraq and Syria controlled by a Shiite military group known as Kataib Hezbollah — the group that American officials blamed for the attack on a base near Kirkuk.
  • Dec. 31: Pro-Iranian protesters, demonstrating against the American airstrikes, attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad, scaling walls and forcing the gates open.
  • Friday: Iran's top general, Qasem Soleimani, is killed by an airstrike in Iraq, which was ordered by President Donald Trump. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the airstrikes disrupted an "imminent attack" in the region that put American lives at risk. After the strike, the US announced it will deploy��thousands of additional troops to the Middle East.
  • Sunday: The military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader said his country's retaliation to the killing will certainly be a military response "against military sites."
  • Wednesday: In the early hours of Wednesday local time, Iranian ballistic missiles struck two bases housing US forces in Iraq. Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tehran "concluded proportionate measures in self-defense." In a statement Wednesday, Trump said the strikes appeared to be the extent of Iran's actions and pledged more US sanctions on Tehran, signaling a scaling down of tensions -- at least for the moment.
  • Thursday: The House of Representatives approved the Iran War Powers resolution with a vote of 224 to 194.The resolution is aimed at restraining the President’s ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval. During a press conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadian officials have intelligence from their own sources and Canada's allies that shows Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

12:25 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

"I hope the US doesn't make another mistake," Iran's Rouhani tells Qatar deputy PM

In a Thursday phone call between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Qatar's deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, the two discussed military action and US involvement in the region, according to a statement from Iran’s Foreign Ministry. 

According to the statement, Rouhani told Al-Thani that if the US responds to Iran’s recent military actions, they will receive a bigger and more dangerous response.

"I hope the US which is known to always make political mistakes, doesn't make another one," Rouhani said.

Rouhani also said that the US killing of General Qasem Soleimani was an unforgivable crime and that “for the safety of Iran, and bringing back peace to Middle East, it’s very important to stop the foreigners from interfering in our politics.”

According to the statement, Al-Thani said, "we are against any further tensions towards Iran."

12:21 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Video appears to show a missile hitting an object in the sky over Tehran

Two frames from a video sent to CNN that appears to show a missile fired into the Tehran sky early Wednesday morning and striking an object in the sky.
Two frames from a video sent to CNN that appears to show a missile fired into the Tehran sky early Wednesday morning and striking an object in the sky. Obtained by Nariman Gharib

Video sent to CNN appears to show a missile fired into the Tehran sky early Wednesday morning and striking an object in the sky. Around that time, a Ukranian airliner crashed shortly after takeoff.

CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the video, but the buildings seen in it appear similar to ones that are in the Iranian capitol suburb of Parand. The Ukrainian plane crashed just north of the suburb.

The video, obtained by Nariman Gharib who then sent it to CNN and the New York Times, shows a light in the sky, moving left to right and then exploding. 

CNN has asked Gharib for more information of who took the video and how he obtained it, but has not yet received a response.

The US increasingly believes that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner on Tuesday, according to multiple US officials. The working theory is based on continuing analysis of data from satellites, radar and electronic data collected routinely by US military and intelligence.

The flight was downed following Iranian strikes on US forces in Iraq.

The Ukrainian jetliner that crashed Wednesday was shot down by two Russian-made surface-to-air missiles (SA-15), according to a US official familiar with the intelligence. The US saw Iranian radar signals lock onto the jetliner, before it was shot down.

12:18 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Iranian ambassador says "a thorough" investigation is being conducted on the crash

Spencer Platt/Getty Images/FILE
Spencer Platt/Getty Images/FILE

Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi has expressed condolences for the families of the plane crash victims.

In comments to the UN Security Council this afternoon, he said:

"We express our deep condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in a plane crash in Iran. A thorough investigation is underway on the incident."

12:19 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

What we know about the Boeing plane crash in Iran

Rescue teams work amidst debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on Jan. 8.
Rescue teams work amidst debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on Jan. 8. AFP via Getty Images

The investigation into the Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 plane crash that killed all 176 people on board continues following news that two Russian-made surface-to-air missiles had hit the aircraft Wednesday, according to US officials.

Here's what we know:

  • Surface-to-air missiles: The Ukrainian plane that crashed Wednesday was shot down by Iran with two Russian-made surface to air missiles, according to a US official familiar with the intelligence. The US saw Iranian radar signals lock onto the jetliner before it was shot down. The morning after the incident, US analysts discovered the data but took another day to verify. The US believes Iran shot down the plane by accident.
  • Canada grieves: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he hopes a thorough investigation will produce answers to why the jet crashed after takeoff from Tehran. "I am willing to talk to anyone to get answers," Trudeau said in a televised address from Ottawa. Of the 176 people killed, 63 were Canadian.
  • US invited to help: The head of the Iranian Investigating Committee of the Ukraine plane crash, Hassan Rezaeifar, said it has invited the United States “as the manufacturer of Boeing to be present” while the committee investigates the crash, according to the country's semi-official Fars News Agency. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has also been asked to join the investigation.
  • Aircraft built in 2016: Ukraine International Airlines said in a statement that the plane was a Boeing 737-800 NG, "built in 2016 and delivered directly to the airline from the manufacturer."
  • Moment before the crash: The Boeing 737-800 climbed to an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet before the aircraft's data suddenly disappeared, according to Flightradar24. Former FAA chief of staff Michael Goldfarb said that is "very unusual" and suggests a "catastrophic" incident, as opposed to engine failure. An airliner should be able to keep flying even if one engine fails, which means pilots normally have time to communicate and recover the aircraft.
  • Airline's first crash: Ukraine International Airlines was founded in 1992 as the national flag carrier, one year after Ukraine got independence from Moscow. According to its website, the airline operates 42 aircraft, connects Ukraine to 38 countries, and its base hub is Kiev's Boryspil International Airport. This is the first crash involving one of the carrier's planes.
  • Flights suspended: The country's State Aviation Service has suspended all Ukrainian airline flights over Iran’s airspace starting midnight January 9, Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said in a Facebook post. Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa canceled flights to Tehran Thursday.