A former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer has raised the possibility that a cyberattack brought down the Ukrainian jet over Iran.
Philip M. Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer who served nineteen years overseas in Turkey, Italy, Germany, and Spain. He was the CIA Chief of Base for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and was one of the first Americans to enter Afghanistan in December 2001. Phil is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a Washington-based advocacy group that seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values and interests.
“What seems to have been a case of bad judgments and human error does, however, include some elements that have yet to be explained,” Philip Giraldi argued in a recent article published in Iran’s Press TV.
“The Iranian missile operator reportedly experienced considerable ‘jamming’ and the planes transponder switched off and stopped transmitting several minutes before the missiles were launched. There were also problems with the communication network of the air defense command, which may have been related,” the former CIA specialist said.
The Ukrainian passenger plane crashed minutes after take-off near Tehran on January 8, killing all the 176 people on board. Iran initially blamed the incident on technical failure but, as more information came to light, it announced that the plane was shot down by a missile due to “human error.”
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At the time, Iran’s air defenses were on high alert after the country’s armed forces had launched a missile attack against two American bases in Iraq in retaliation for the US assassination in Baghdad of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force.
Giraldi contended that the Iranian air defense system was likely placed in the manual operation mode as a result of the possible electronic jamming coming from an unknown source.
Meanwhile, the shutdown of the plane’s transponder, which would have sent signals informing the operator that the plane was civilian, indicated that it was hostile. The operator, who must have been briefed on the possibility of intruding American cruise missiles, had to decide in only seconds whether to shoot down the plane approaching a sensitive military site.
“Given what happened on that morning in Tehran, it is plausible to assume that something or someone deliberately interfered with both the Iranian air defenses and with the transponder on the airplane, possibly as part of an attempt to create an aviation accident that would be attributed to the Iranian government,” Giraldi said.
A senior Iranian military officer did not rule out a possible disruption of Iran’s radar network by the United States, causing the operator to mistake the Ukrainian airliner for a hostile cruise missile.
“Interference in the [defense] systems by the United States is not unprecedented,” Ali Abdollahi Aliabadi, coordinator deputy of the General Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, said this week on national TV. “The Iranian cyber systems have identified and recorded virtual objects manufactured by the US in the country’s airspace.”
Acting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said there is information that at least six American F-35 jets were “in the Iranian border area” at the time of the accident. “This information has yet to be verified, but I’d like to underline the edginess that always accompanies such situations,” Lavrov said on Friday.
In an interview with Azad News Agency (ANA), Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani said the Iranian Armed Forces are considering all details pertaining to the tragic crash of the Boeing jetliner near Tehran.
Shamkhani emphasized that the Armed Forces have launched a full-scale investigation into the crash, including a possible hacking attack, infiltration or a cyberwarfare operation.
Meanwhile the video evidence published by the New York Times showing the moment an Iranian missile hit a passenger jet has prompted much skepticism on whether the Iranian plane shootdown was a setup by western intelligence.
Questions arise about the improbable timing and circumstances of recording the precise moment when the plane was hit.
Turns out that Nariman Gharib, the guy who received the video and credited by the NY Times for submitting it, is a vociferous anti-Iranian government dissident who does not live in Iran. He ardently promotes regime change in his social media posts.
Christiaan Triebert, the NY Times’ video expert, who collaborated closely with Gharib to get the story out within hours of the incident, previously worked as a senior investigator at Bellingcat. Bellingcat calls itself an independent online investigative journalism project, but numerous critics accuse it of being a media adjunct to Western military intelligence. Bellingcat has been a big proponent of media narratives smearing the Russian and Syrian governments over the MH17 shoot-down in Ukraine in 2014 (believed to be brought down by British Secret Service) and chemical weapons attacks.
Bellingcat’s open support for foreign military intervention and tendency to promote NATO/U.S. war propaganda are unsurprising when one considers how the group is funded and the groups with which it regularly collaborates.
In the latest shoot-down of the airliner above Tehran, the tight liaison between a suspiciously placed anonymous videographer on the ground and an expatriate Iranian dissident who then gets the prompt and generous technical attention of the NY Times suggests a level of orchestration, not, as we are led to believe, a random happenstance submission. More sinisterly, the fateful incident was a setup.
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