US Claims Iran Shot Down 737, Killing 176 People

Filed Under: Ukraine

Yesterday a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737-800 bound from Tehran to Kiev crashed after takeoff, as the plane lost radar contact while passing through 8,000 feet.

All 176 people onboard died, including the 167 passengers and nine crew.

The timing of this sure seemed suspicious, given escalating tensions between the US and Iran, and given that just hours earlier Iran had taken action against US military bases in Iraq.

What Iran initially claimed

Air crash investigations take time, though Iran’s response was bizarre:

  • They immediately claimed that the plane had a technical fault that caused the crash
  • That’s despite the fact that the pilots didn’t make a mayday call, and also despite the fact that data recorded for the flight showed a very normal climb, before the plane suddenly disappeared from radar; if there were a technical fault you’d think the plane would show inconsistent airspeed, would descend, etc.
  • Iran is refusing to hand over black boxes to foreign officials

So their story didn’t make sense. In fairness, I wasn’t assuming that Iran would intentionally shoot down this plane, since that’s not exactly an attack on the US. 82 passengers on the flight were Iranian, 63 were Canadian, and 11 were Ukrainian, with the balance being from other countries. If it was shot down, my assumption was that it was some sort of mistake.

US officials claim Iran shot down the plane

According to anonymous sources of CBS News, some US officials are now confident that the Ukraine 737-800 was shot down by Iran. The US picked up on signals of a radar being turned on, followed by two surface-to-air missiles being launched. Shortly thereafter the plane exploded.

So far US officials have just spoken on the condition of anonymity, though President Trump has said that “it was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood and somebody could have made a mistake.”

As a precaution, some airlines have canceled and diverted flights bound for Tehran.

Bottom line

An investigation here will be challenging, given the lack of cooperation between the US/Boeing and Iran. While investigations always take a long time, Iran immediately claiming a technical fault despite the lack of an alert from the pilots, and despite the lack of data supporting something like that, made many of us wonder.

The US explanation seems much more plausible, unfortunately…

While there are talks of the situation between the US and Iran already deescalating, it’s sad that there are 176 innocent people who lost their lives as part of this conflict, at least indirectly.

  1. They were probably on high alert and were ready for some type of US retaliation. Unfortunately wrong place / wrong time.

  2. Wow, really? I never thought of that…
    Seriously, from the first moment it was obvious that someone shot it down. Politically instable area, at the worst time.
    A 737-800 just doesn’t blow up on 8000 feet.

  3. Planes flying to /over Ukraine seem to have dispropotionately high chances of being shot down by a missile.

  4. “it’s sad that there are 176 innocent people who lost their lives as part of this conflict, at least indirectly”.

    The Iranian government could care less. They killed at least 1,500 non-violent protestors last November. Killed at least 600 American armed forces by IEDs in Iraq, and several thousand more maimed. Gays thrown off high buildings, rape victims stoned to death. Political prisoners hung.

    ‘Life is cheap’ there….

  5. I live in Ukraine, I see the UIA flight attendants being picked up on their shuttle to KBP nearly every week.

    A friend of mine knew one of the flight attendants, beautiful 24 year old girl who was enjoying her life as a flight attendant.

    As an American it makes me sad to see people from my adopted country suffering as a likely result of our wars in the Mid East.

  6. Waiting to see how CNN is gonna blame this one on Trump somehow. Because I’d bet my bottom dollar that somehow, they’ll find a way…

  7. Well, US officials have never got their facts wrong before so it must be true! Problem is that when an administration is known for its lying its difficult to believe anything they say.

    It might be true, but the word of the trump admin just isnt good enough.

  8. @Arie

    Usually, I agree. But, the circumstances and evidence would actually support this claim as opposed to the usual alternate ‘facts’.

  9. @Moishebatchy it’s not a complicated line you have to draw to pin this on Trump… he chose to take out Soleimani which of course was going to lead to an Iranian response and have them on edge. Nobody thinks Soleimani was a good guy, but as always, Trump’s impulsive and erratic behavior are detrimental to America and, now, to innocent air passengers as well. This mistake by Iran is the only thing keeping us from WW3 in the Middle East.

  10. Trump’s ‘somehow’ going to get blamed because this is pretty much all on him, and he’s woefully inept to handle Iran’s shadow tactics, as is his administration of mostly D-grade dunces. You’re going to be seeing a lot more tragedies like this, because I guarantee you nobody making the decisions is familiar in the least with navigating this situation.

    If that’s not scary, a reminder we have no:
    -Director of National Intelligence
    -No Homeland Security Secretary
    -No Navy Secretary

    Combined with the fact that he’s already not particularly smart, not held in high esteem on the world stage, and just gave a speech yesterday that was about as meth head on a 5 day tear there’s going to be a lot of ugliness.

  11. This isn’t on Trump any more than the US shooting down the Iran Airways plane in 1988 was Iran’s fault. When you shoot down a regularly scheduled passenger plane, it’s pretty hard to pass the blame. Let’s use those logic machines that should be available just behind your eyeballs.

  12. @Rob

    I agree with you Rob. While I have no trust in trump and his cronies, I do have a ton of respect for the people who work for the intelligence agencies. Vast majority of them are smart and ethical people who happen to believe in facts.

  13. I checked flightradar within minutes when reports was coming in on the news. The flight was taking off normally, altitude, speed, and straight direction. Then, no more data. Whatever happened was abrupt and dramatic. Didn’t jive with claim that it was technical, so fast and premature from the officials. I mean it was still dark when they made that claim, no investigators.

  14. Iran shoots down a plane, and it’s the US’ fault? How about we apply common sense and say it’s the fault of whoever shot down the plane?

    People who need to pin everything on Trump are as bad as the people who excuse Trump’s every behavior.

  15. If we want to understand the root of the current Mid-East instability, chaos and violence, the main culprits are Bush Jr., Cheney and Rumsfeld. History had proven that Afghanistan was a grave yard for the Soviet Union and the trio morons trapped the US in Afghanistan as the longest war in its history. The world is much better off having Sadam Hussein in power in Iraq than the Iranian mullahs’ influences, a much lesser evil of the two. The west never understands the power of fanatical religions, all religions not just limited to Islam. Religions require absolute submission from their followers, are disdain to knowledge and science, and most of all are highly hypocritical. Their followers always use their hearts, not their heads, to make decisions in life. Just look at the Republican Party now. It is no longer a political party but purely a cult.

  16. @Lance, perhaps if barack obama had enforced “crossing the red line” after bashar assad gassed his own people, maybe President Trump would not have taken out soleimani….Just a thought.

    @Moishebatchy – love your screen handle.

    @Alpha, very scary I didn’t realize how many vacancies there were.

  17. “I do have a ton of respect for the people who work for the intelligence agencies.”

    Which is unfathomable in today’s world.

  18. @Lance, you and all others parading around references to WW3 have no common sense nor ability to think for themselves while being spoon-fed nonsense/lies by CNN and NYT.

  19. Lance, laughable take. How you arrive at that conclusion is baffling. Whether you agree with the decision to eliminate Soleimani, it is impossible to place the blame on Trump for that plane going down. Do me a favor: don’t listen to the media for once, and put on your critical thinking hat, just this one time, and arrive at your own conclusions. The results will surprise you…

  20. Why anyone would trust the United States government on anything related to Middle East intelligence and foreign policy given their track record over the past couple decades? The lies and incompetence were bad enough *before* the current administration took over, and the current administration has shown from Day 1 that it will lie about every last little thing.

    This is not to say that I think Iran didn’t shoot down the plane. They very well may have, either intentionally or accidentally!

    But I’m not going to trust my own American government’s conclusions on this matter. They have completely destroyed their own credibility.

  21. As someone who lives in the U.K. and is looking in on this situation with shock horror, it’s pretty certain that that plane was shot down. Whether it was by Iran or by America (if we look at history America seems to have more of a problem with shooting down planes over Iran), I’m pretty sure that no one will ever be able to be certain about who is at fault.

    If Iran did it (which seems likely), I can understand their panic. The USA recently committed what’s pretty much a terrorist attack on an Iranian government figure during peacetime, and has sanctions on Iran like nobody’s business. Iran is being punished for minding its own business and trying to arm itself in order to protect itself from the foreign army that’s encircling it’s land and has a habit of invading Middle Eastern countries for highly questionable reasons. Iran may not have a good human rights record, but neither does America (Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Police violence etc)

  22. When I first read about the crash, I immediately thought of the Air Crash Investigation show on the military pilot accidentally shooting down a passenger 747 based on misidentification.

  23. Is it really so hard for some people here to accept that both Iran and the United States are to blame? Iran bears the brunt of the responsibility, because, you know, they actually shot the plane down. Almost certainly by accident, because their interests don’t otherwise support such an attack. And President Trump also bears some responsibility for creating the current geopolitical situation. Iran had a domestic political need to respond to the killing of Suleimani with a carefully targeted attack, which also necessitated they set their SAM systems on a hair-trigger in case of a further U.S. escalation. If Suleimani wasn’t killed, none of those people would be dead.

  24. One way to look at it, which I do as a Canadian, dozens of whose countrymen just died by violence, is that Trump didn’t shoot down the plane. I doubt very much that Iran’s Supreme Leader (or whatever he’s called) ordered it either. But I intend to be helpful when I suggest that if The President hadn’t ordered the killing of a very popular Iranian public figure, this downing of a passenger jet might not have happened. YES I get it, there isn’t a straight line between The President’s action and this event; I don’t claim there is. But it looks to me as though Official Iran was humiliated and enraged by the assassination, then soon thereafter it appears their armed forces downed a passenger jet.

    Do Iranians shoot down passenger planes routinely? No, it doesn’t happen, so this “coincidence” deserves a good hard look. Can we “blame” Trump? Not directly, no. But what he did was bound to enrage the wackjobs that run Iran. Oh, look! Iran’s wackjob leaders did something Wacked!

    I’d say this: if we want cooler heads, less death in the Middle East, putting Trump and his appointees in charge is perhaps not the fastest way to achieve that goal.

  25. Looks like its true, as there is video of what looks like a projectile hitting the plane.

    Hard to directly blame this on Trump, but its not hard to see how his choice indirectly led to this. He took a huge gambit by offing Soleimani without any real pretext (they keep saying it was justified by an imminent threat yet that haven’t backed up that claim in any way). And that was bound to lead to anxiety, tension, and a far higher risk of costly mistakes. And here is your costly mistake. To be clear, the blood is on Iran’s hands, but we should have never precipitated this silly game.

  26. @globetrotter

    If we are going to go 20 years back, perhaps we can go a little further. This whole incident is Woodrow Wilson’s fault!


  27. If you see the (admittedly poor) footage of what is believed to be the plane falling back down to earth you can immediately tell that technical fault was out of the question. The video shows a bright ball of fire falling from the sky. The correct thing for Iran to do here (if they did shoot it down) was to regretfully admit they shot it down and say it was a genuine accident. But whether it was the current relations between Iran and the rest of the world, shame/regret/embarrassment or a combination of both we don’t why the plane was shot down.

    We will only find out what happened if Iran releases the black boxes.

  28. @Alpha

    I certainly prefer Trump’s foreign policy leadership to Bush who got the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq and Obama who not only continued the Afghanistan and Iraq debacle but doubled it and added the dismantling of peace in Syria, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt by providing military support for overthrow of stable governments. Libya right now just is back where it was in 2011 and only Egypt is stable.

    Trump ordered the launch of a couple of missiles at Syria, ordered the killing of the #1 ISIS leader and ordered the missile which killed the Iranian Commander who was conspiring in Iraq and launched the attack on the Baghdad embassy. That literally is all Trump has done military wise and he has pushed for peace with North Korea, has been trying to get a peace agreement in Afghanistan and has moved troops out of Syria. It was the left, Democrats and Republicans who were mad Trump pulled troops out of a Syria to return home and let other countries in the region deal with it. Trump literally is the most pro peace President in 30 years (Clinton with Kosovo).


    The intelligence community has proven themselves to spy on U.S., citizens, spy on European countries, and spy for political purposes. It is an industrial complex that is self serving and the same one that got us into Iraq. I don’t know why you have such faith in people who are part of the bureaucracy and deep state. They are the biggest advocates for the domestic spying program.

  29. Simple math: has the ME become more or less stable since Trump’s policies have been implemented? Do you now feel safer?

  30. People are quick to forget, Iran attacked a US Embassy (again). For those unaware, embassies are considered sovereign national territory. This is theoretically no different than attacking American soil.

    There has to be a response to attacks on embassies. And it looked like the Iranians blinked and made a show of a fake attack to save face. Unfortunately, they also appear to have shot down a passenger jet.

  31. “People are quick to forget, Iran attacked a US Embassy (again).” People are also quick to forget the blood of the several hundred americans which was on the hands of this general not to mention thousands of civilians. People are also quick to forget that our ally saudi arabia’s oil facilities were attacked by iran and it took out half of Saudi arabia’s oil which amounts to 5% of the world oil supply! Also oil tankers were attacked at the behest of Iran. The cyber attacks that Iran has conducted already on the US. Its amazing just how much people forget and they want to be outraged at Trump even though he has been restrained in his response after numerous provocations from Iran. Now Iran shoots down a scheduled civilian airline flight killing innocent people. A plane that was climbing out of the airport not descending, that was going a speed consistent with commercial traffic. Then they lie about it and try to claim it was a mechanical error with the plane. Yet somehow people want to suggest the US is somehow remotely responsible for this??? At some point people need to be rationale and assign blame where it is appropriate. Iran killed these people. Its obviously was a mistake but lets not sugar coat this or pretend that Iran is somehow a victim of the US.

  32. @Noah Bowie we don’t need the black boxes. In fact the black boxes may not tell much in this situation. The wreckage itself will provide much more evidence if this was a missile strike.

  33. If it’s a missile, as it appears to be, then it looks to be intentional.

    Hard to see how an ‘accident’ could happen, unless trying to make excuses. No hostiles in the area, no other air weapons had been fired, right beside the capital city where all the leadership and professionals and equipment are, a readily identifiable civilian plane with transponder id running, and on slow take off from their main airport where it’s clearly not a threat. And to top it off, state media ready with the technical issue straight away, following leadership instructions.

    No, no rational excuse for it to be an accident.

  34. “In fact the black boxes may not tell much in this situation. The wreckage itself will provide much more evidence if this was a missile strike.”

    Which their government is rapidly bulldozing up to cover up the situation and evidence.

  35. @BrewerSEA From your comment it seems you are unaware of what has been going on with Iran for the last few years if you think that everything started with the killing of that general. I suggest researching the numerous provocations by Iran and the restraint that was shown by the US. Unfortunately they kept pushing it and got more than they bargained for. Not saying this is the response I would have chosen but I also don’t think its appropriate to blame the US for the actions of Iran.

  36. @Bill if you take issue with the civilian blood on that one general’s hands, wait til you hear about the last several US presidents

  37. @JojoBarnes raises such thoughtful points. And being from the UK gives so much more weight to his drivel. Maybe it wasnt Iran but a false flag attack. Maybe a reaper drone happened to be the area. Maybe the CIA launched a bald eagle with a hellfire strapped to its back. Maybe NASA shot a laser from space. Who knows!

  38. Wow. So ironic considering the US did the exact same thing in 1988 but killed about 280 people.

    These situations are so difficult to blame, but its strange how hard people find it to accept that there is blame to be attributed to both sides. Nobody is innocent or motive-less.

  39. @MH
    it happened before MH17, IR655, KL005, KL905 etc, etc the missile believed to have downed the plane is operated from mobile launch platforms, so all you have to believe is a couple of exhausted reservists, or conscripts, who had heard of the attacks on a few US military bases in the region, believe their about to die in the counter-attack. They see something that shows up on the automatic targeting array as a possible attack, and someone hits the fire button or freezes up and does nothing.

  40. Sunny,

    The example doesn’t prove your point. Just looking at MH17 for example, that was completely different.

    For MH17, that was over a fighting zone after Russia invaded where numerous planes and other aircraft had already been shot down and many missiles launched. (It was thought safe to operate due to the height.) Here there has been no planes shot down, and no ‘hostile’ craft in the airspace in fact. Further, that was in a remote area with a mobile team of fighters who are independent. Here, it’s right from their capital city where all the senior leadership and controls are in place, so no capacity to do their own thing. There, the plane was targeted as thought to be a military transport aircraft amongst all the other targets. Here, as said there have been no targets and it was just on take off from their main well-known airport with frequent traffic, so not able to be mistaken.

    And to top it off as said , state media immediately came up with the technical excuse, rather than being caught on the back foot in Ukraine and having to come up with multiple excuses.

  41. @mxs, claiming an accident from 30 years ago is “exact same thing” shows bias, ignorance, laziness or all of the above. It was not the same. Just like MH17 was not the same.

    And it is not difficult to affix responsibility – the captain was blamed for the Vincennes’ actions, and Reagan quickly apologized, which eventually led to compensation being paid. Here, the mullahs are blaming Boeing, Trump, aliens, or who knows what else.

  42. @DenB – Your quote: “But I intend to be helpful when I suggest that if The President hadn’t ordered the killing of a very popular Iranian public figure, this downing of a passenger jet might not have happened.” makes it sound like the US killed Iran’s answer to Steve Harvey or Billy Joel and belies a serious lack of knowledge on who Qasem Soleimani was and why his elimination was a necessary thing to do. He was the commander of the Quds Force who was behind much of the terrorist activity that we’ve seen in Iraq, Syria and Yemen (among other places). He was behind the attempted takeover of the US Embassy in Baghdad (which is conveniently forgotten). The man was an evil force within an evil regime that most Iranians would love to see go away (but don’t dare say so).

    So, don’t act like the US just went on some half-assed killing spree in a willy-nilly fashion. They eliminated one of this planet’s most prolific murderers after he attacked US sovereign territory. This business of moral equivalency between a democracy and a police state that stones people to death for the crime of being gay or committing adultery is absurd and needs to stop.

  43. @stogieguy7

    The US actually *did* just go on a half-assed killing spree in a willy-nilly fashion.

    The administration still hasn’t gotten their story straight on why they did it.

    They’re just counting on people like you to say that “of course it was a good idea to kill him at that time in that place in that way…he’s a bad guy!”

  44. @Ben L. Of course it’s true about Solemani, unless you’re some kind of an apologist for the Islamic regime in Iran. Which is something I don’t get: so many people who espouse progressivism would prefer to defend a backward, neanderthalic regime who treats anyone who’s not a good muslim male as chattel versus anything that Donald Trump has to do with. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right Ben? That seems to be CNN’s mantra this week.

    Yet, the last president gave them a pallet of money, which they spend on missiles to kill people. That worked out well. And, yes, you’re damn right people like me say that – because it is true.

  45. What a phenomenally bad faith argument. I am not apologizing for or defending the Iranian government. You seem bent on circling back to a political tribalism argument, whereas I am focused narrowly on two issues:
    1) are the US intelligence and foreign policy communities reliable sources of information for the public when it comes to the Middle East?
    2) Is it appropriate to kill a leader of another country (against whom there is not a Congressional declaration of War or AUMF) while that leader is present in a third country that did not grant permission for the attack to take place within their sovereign boundaries?

  46. I find it amazing that someone with a phone camera just happened to record the departure of this flight, in the dark and in the early hours of the morning and even more so when the recording also claims to show a missile hitting the plane.

    I wonder how many posters here do that or ever have. I certainly never have.

    Also assuming that the recording was made is there also one of the plane immediately before which I think was either Qatar or Turkish or was it just a Ukraine 738 that was of interest?

    To me, this stinks.

    I have no more idea than anyone else how this happened but the video lacks credibility.

  47. I see Iran admitted that it accidentally shot down this aircraft. If not for Donald Trump 176 innocent people would still be alive today. For all its faults I respect Iran for owning up to their mistake. If America accidentally shot down this plane I’m pretty sure they would have done their level best to cover it up.

  48. @Chris, seek treatment for your TDS. Also maybe crack open a history book ( ) we own our mistakes. Iran shot down a plane leaving their airport with their missiles (sold to them from Russia) and they and they alone are to blame for this. Iran attacked our embassy, has been attacking ships with mines, oil facilities in Saudi, and funding terrorism for decades…yeah until just recently the whole ME has been a big peace party and the Iranian leaders have been so well behaved :/. It requires a special level of retard to think that because we took out a cosmic douche who has murdered thousands of his own people and many others in the region we somehow have any blame for Iran shooting a plane leaving their own airport because they were firing missiles at our bases.

  49. @Ryan – I don’t mind you calling me a retard, coming from an American I take it as a compliment. Hopefully the Middle East will now chuck out all the Americans in the region. Wherever they go they leave a mess behind.

  50. @chris you own our mistakes? When did the US apologise for shooting down an IranAir plane over Iran? You question why Iran is shooting your bases in Iraq, and the simple reason is because you have bases in Iraq. How would America feel if Iran opened a military base in Canada?

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