Former President Hassan Rouhani’s chief of staff claims that the IRGC concealed the truth about the downing of Flight PS752 from Rouhani for three days, while authorities attributed the crash to technical issues.

According to Mahmoud Vaezi, Rouhani insisted on immediately issuing a statement to admit the truth when he found out. “I want to say Rouhani persevered when he found out,” Vaezi said in an interview an excerpt of which was published by the reformist Etemad newspaper this week.

The IRGC shot down the Ukrainian airliner shortly after it took off from Imam Khomeini International Airport near the capital Tehran on January 8, 2020. All 176 people onboard the plane were killed in the incident.

Vaezi claims Rouhani became aware of the possibility of the IRGC's responsibility after some US media outlets, officials, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose country lost 63 citizens in the crash, asserted that the plane had been downed.

The full-length interview, which must have been conducted at least two months ago, was published in Etemad Yearbook in March, which was not accessible abroad. The excerpt which sheds light on some of the events never spoken of in such detail before is solely related to the downing of the Ukrainian flight.

Vaezi claims these events took place before the IRGC admitted it had shot down the plane and that the authorities who were hiding the facts from Rouhani and his government insisted that Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif should do an interview, presumably to reiterate what he had been told, but he refused unless he was made aware of the facts.

The downing of the plane by two surface-to-air defense missiles, came a few hours after Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at two Iraqi bases hosting US and coalition troops. The attack was in retaliation for a US drone strike that had killed the commander of the IRGC’s extraterritorial Qods force, Qasem Soleimani, and nine others in Baghdad just five days earlier.

Iran’s Armed Forces admitted they had shot down the Ukrainian airliner on January 11 but claimed the air defense had mistaken the plane for a hostile target heading toward a sensitive IRGC base. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh, the chief of IRGC air operations responsible for airspace security, attributed the downing of the airliner to “human error” of the air defense. The IRGC also alleged that the “risky behavior” of the United States had caused the incident.

Despite expecting retaliation from the US, the IRGC which is responsible for air defense of the capital did not close the civilian airspace in the early morning hours of January 8.

Many Iranians including some victims’ families have always maintained that the IRGC used the airliner as a “human shield” to prevent possible US retaliation for its missile attacks.

Apparently referring to remarks made by IRGC officials, Dr Mohsen Asadi-Lari, a former high-ranking health ministry official who lost both his children in the tragic downing of the plane, said in an interview in 2022 that officials had admitted the downing of the plane was meant to evade war with the US.

"They say a difficult war would happen the next day if the plane was not downed. The US would have attacked, and ten million lives would be in danger," he said.

The Iranian government to this day has not allowed an independent investigation and insists that the incident resulted from human error by a missile operator.

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