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A big boy did it

January 14, 2020

It may not be admirable, but it is an entirely human instinct. That is almost certainly your football sitting in the neighbour’s lounge on the other side of the broken window, but when challenged, you can’t stop yourself saying, “A big boy did it an ran away.” Or blaming the dog for your failure to produce your homework.

It was all too predictable that the initial reaction of the Iranian government to accusations that it might hold some responsibility for the downing of Ukrainian Airways Flight 752 would be to claim this was impossible.

It’s what they did next that matters. They admitted responsibility. They acknowledged the tragic error which had led to the deaths.

“I wish I was dead,” General Amir Ali Hajizadeh,  head of the Revolutionary Guard aerospace division, said at a press conference after announcing the error and taking responsibility for the deaths of the passengers and crew on board Flight 752.

Does anyone remember a Russian general voicing such deep regret after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17? No, of course you don’t, because no Russian authority has ever admitted the blindingly obvious fact that a Russian missile was responsible for the crash and loss of life.

Does anyone remember a US admiral voicing deep regret after two missiles fired from the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, killing everyone on board on July 3, 1988? No. The US military claimed that the passenger plane was not within its normal flight path and had been rapidly descending towards the Vincennes when it was shot down. The US Navy’s own report, a heavily redacted version of which was released a month and a half later, debunked these claims, concluding that it had been a “tragic and regrettable accident”. (The captain of the Vincennes was subsequently awarded the Legion of Merit for his “outstanding service” during operations in the Persian Gulf.)

They may have started off blaming the big boy, but within a couple of days the Iranian government (unlike the Russian government) decided to be the big boy and own up.

It never occurred to me when I first saw the headline – “Ukrainian passenger plane crashes in Tehran” – that this was in any way a Canadian story, but it turns out it was. Three quarters of the passengers on Flight 752 were en route to Toronto and more than 60 were Canadian citizens, including a young couple who’d gone to Iran to get married.

Because this had turned out to be a Canadian tragedy, it fell to Justin Trudeau to point the first official finger of blame. (I know this is a serious piece, but, c’mon, Justin, what’s with the beard?) He was careful to say the downing of the flight could have been inadvertent. As noted, the Iranians didn’t initially bite, but they have now and by all accounts their co-operation has since been above and beyond.

Perhaps it’s time for Justin Trudeau to be a big boy, too. Perhaps it’s time, in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, for Canada to re-establish the diplomatic relations with Iran which his predecessor ended in 2012.

Is Iran a “bad actor”? It depends on your point of view, but I’d have to say yes. However it  isn’t alone. The US is a very bad actor, too, never more so than in 1953 when the CIA conspired with MI6 to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, who’d had the temerity to suggest that Iran, not Britain, should have control of its oil reserves. (Oh, and, FYI, it took sixty years for the CIA to own up.) Try to imagine for a moment the country Iran might be today if its secular democracy had not been replaced with decades of the Shah’s thuggish regime.

(Oh, for crying out loud. As I was typing Stephen Harper popped up on the CBC radio news stating that there would never be peace in the Middle East until there was regime change in Iran. Wrong, you mendacious piece of shit. There will never be peace in the Middle East until the rest of the world stands up to Israel and demands justice – and a country – for the Palestinians.)

Do I think the people of Iran would be happier if the ayatollahs lost their iron grip? Yes, and judging by the number of Iranians protesting in the street, so do they. Young people in particular want the secular democracy that was stolen by the CIA midway through the previous century. What they don’t need is US adventurism again.

I don’t know if Canada re-establishing diplomatic ties with Iran will do much to further the democratic ambitions of the Iranian people, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

From → Columns

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