Patterico's Pontifications


Iran Denies Downing Ukrainian Plane: We can say with certainty that no missile hit the plane

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:09 pm

[guest post by Dana]

From the AP:

Iran on Friday denied Western allegations that one of its own missiles downed a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed outside Tehran, and called on the U.S. and Canada to share any information they have on the crash, which killed all 176 people on board.

Western leaders said the plane appeared to have been unintentionally hit by a surface-to-air missile just hours after Iran launched around a dozen ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq to avenge the killing of its top general in an American airstrike last week.

“What is obvious for us, and what we can say with certainty, is that no missile hit the plane,” Ali Abedzadeh, head of Iran’s national aviation department, told a press conference.

Further, there are now concerns being raised about the integrity of Iran’s investigation into the crash:

The site of a crashed Ukrainian airliner near Iran’s capital Tehran has been cleared of all large pieces of debris and locals are trawling over the remaining wreckage, as calls grow for a full and transparent investigation into the disaster.

The lack of security at the scene has raised concerns over the inquiry’s credibility, just a day after western intelligence officials said Iran shot down the jet with surface-to-air missiles. Iran has denied any hostile act, calling the assessment a “big lie.”

An eyewitness at the crash site told CNN that looters and “garbage men” were “wandering around,” picking up debris, objects made of aluminum and anything else deemed valuable, as police and Revolutionary Guard Corps tried to disperse them.


The head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Authority Ali Abedzadeh told CNN on Friday that fragments of the plane had been taken to a hangar off-site to “reconstruct” it for “investigating the cause of the crash,” and that the remains of victims had been sent to a forensic lab for DNA testing.

Note: CBS News visited the crash site on Friday and found that it had already been scrubbed of virtually all debris.

Graham Braithwaite, professor of safety and accident investigation at Cranfield University explains just how critical the actual crash site is when black boxes are damaged, as Iran has claimed they are:

Where you have flight recorders that tell you what has happened you can move quickly to clearing the site. But if the recorders are damaged…then all you have is the forensic evidence at the site to tell you the story.

Here is video making the rounds that appears to be the missile hitting the plane:

Researchers with the online investigative group Bellingcat were able to pinpoint the location from which the video was shot, in the town of Parand. “There is a construction site with a few very distinct buildings,” says Aric Toler, the group’s lead researcher on Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The camera appears to be pointing in the correct direction, showing the missile coming from the north or west, the direction of some of the sensitive Iranian facilities, and what is likely the aircraft coming from the south or east, where the airport is located.

Toler says the time it takes the sound of the blast to reach the viewer also provides a clue. “If you’re watching a storm, you can count how far away the lightning is, based on how long the thunder takes,” he says. “It’s the same thing with a missile explosion.”

The delay between flash and boom shows the explosion took place some 3.3 kilometers (2 miles) from the viewer, a good match for where the flight was expected to be. “It is exactly the right distance and path to where the flight path was,” Toler says.

It is now being reported that Iran intends to announce what caused the downing of the Ukrainian jetplane tomorrow.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


New Year, Same Old Overreactions

Filed under: General — JVW @ 8:24 am

[guest post by JVW]

We ring in the new year with yet another story of cowardly administrators caving to the censorious mob:

A Babson College adjunct professor was fired after making a joke on his Facebook account about Iran bombing American cultural sites.

“In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomeini should tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb,” wrote Asheen Phansey, the Massachusetts college’s director of sustainability.

“Mall of America?… Kardashian residence?” he suggested.

[. . . ]

“Babson College conducted a prompt and thorough investigation related to a post shared on a staff member’s personal Facebook page that does not represent the values and culture of the college,” the school said, according to CBS Boston.

“Based on the results of the investigation, the staff member is no longer a Babson College employee,” it said. “As we have previously stated, Babson College condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate.”

Phansey apologized through his attorney Wednesday night, insisting it was nothing more than a bad joke.

“I am sorry that my sloppy humor was read as a threat,” he said.

I take a backseat to no one in my disdain for academics who show a blatant disregard for opinions outside of the faculty lounge bubble, and I don’t find all that much humor in joking about the potential death of shoppers in a U.S. mall or a celebrity family in their home, obnoxious though they may be. And yes, I recognize that Mr. Phansey was an adjunct professor and therefore lacked the protections that a tenured or tenure-track professor would theoretically enjoy.

That said, I find Babson’s reaction to be way out of proportion to Mr. Phansey’s offense, with the important caveat that perhaps Mr. Phansey has a deeper disciplinary history with the college than is publicly known and his dismissal is the culmination of a series of events. But if he is being let go purely because of the insensitive Facebook post, then I object to his treatment. Babson could have easily censured him for his musings, given him the chance to apologize, and let the matter drop. We should all be concerned, as Mr. Phansey wrote last night, what this rush-to-judgement says about “our ability as Americans to engage in political discourse without presuming the worst about each other.”


Credibility Matters, Including in Foreign Policy

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:02 am

Let’s review.

1. Donald Trump recently said:

The language used was “any U.S. person or target.” Shortly thereafter, Iran hit two U.S. bases with missiles. Presumably those were targets. Trump did nothing in response, despite having promised to do so.

Personally, I’m glad Trump did not respond as he threatened.

But I’m not glad he made a threat that turned out to have no credibility.

2. Mike Pompeo has been going around telling everyone that Iran was threatening an “imminent” attack. Yesterday we learned what he meant by that:

The definition of “imminent” is “ready to take place” or “happening soon.” It is a word that implies a time element. But Pompeo admits he doesn’t know the time element, even as he asserts that the time element was soon.

Personally, I think the killing of Soleimani was probably legal. I doubt it had to be “imminent” as long as there was a valid pre-emptive rationale — especially given that we had a right to be in Iraq (whether you agree with our mission or not, we had a right to be there), and Soleimani had planned and carried out attacks against us there before.

But I’m not glad that Pompeo is making claims about “imminence” that he reveals in the next breath he can’t back up.

Look: the idea that the Trump administration lacks credibility is hardly a new concept. Everyone knows it. But the fact that it doesn’t surprise you that they have no credibility doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter that they have no credibility.

And no matter what you think of the attack on Soleimani, the way the administration has handled the explanations shows that they had no coherent strategy and that their attitude is that you had better not debate what Trump does or else. I’ll leave you with Mike Lee channeling my response to that:

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

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