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Anatomy of a Lie: How Iran Covered Up the Downing of an Airliner

Westlake Legal Group 00iran-plane11-facebookJumbo Anatomy of a Lie: How Iran Covered Up the Downing of an Airliner Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 Suleimani, Qassim Rouhani, Hassan Politics and Government Missiles and Missile Defense Systems Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters

When the Revolutionary Guards officer spotted what he thought was an unidentified aircraft near Tehran’s international airport, he had seconds to decide whether to pull the trigger.

Iran had just fired a barrage of ballistic missiles at American forces, the country was on high alert for an American counterattack, and the Iranian military was warning of incoming cruise missiles.

The officer tried to reach the command center for authorization to shoot but couldn’t get through. So he fired an antiaircraft missile. Then another.

The plane, which turned out to be a Ukrainian jetliner with 176 people on board, crashed and exploded in a ball of fire.

Within minutes, the top commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards realized what they had done. And at that moment, they began to cover it up.

For days, they refused to tell even President Hassan Rouhani, whose government was publicly denying that the plane had been shot down. When they finally told him, he gave them an ultimatum: come clean or he would resign.

Only then, 72 hours after the plane crashed, did Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, step in and order the government to acknowledge its fatal mistake.

The New York Times pieced together a chronology of those three days by interviewing Iranian diplomats, current and former government officials, ranking members of the Revolutionary Guards and people close to the supreme leader’s inner circle and by examining official public statements and state media reports.

The reporting exposes the government’s behind-the-scenes debate over covering up Iran’s responsibility for the crash while shocked Iranians, grieving relatives and countries with citizens aboard the plane waited for the truth.

The new details also demonstrate the outsize power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which effectively sidelined the elected government in a moment of national crisis, and could deepen what many Iranians already see as a crisis of legitimacy for the Guards and the government.

The bitter divisions in Iran’s government persist and are bound to affect the investigation into the crash, negotiations over compensation and the unresolved debate over accountability.

Around midnight on Jan. 7, as Iran was preparing to launch a ballistic-missile attack on American military posts in Iraq, senior members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps deployed mobile antiaircraft defense units around a sensitive military area near Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport.

Iran was about to retaliate for the American drone strike that had killed Iran’s top military commander, Gen. Qassim Suleimani, in Baghdad five days earlier, and the military was bracing for an American counterstrike. The armed forces were on “at war” status, the highest alert level.

But in a tragic miscalculation, the government continued to allow civilian commercial flights to land and take off from the Tehran airport.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Guards’ Aerospace Force, said later that his units had asked officials in Tehran to close Iran’s airspace and ground all flights, to no avail.

Iranian officials feared that shutting down the airport would create mass panic that war with the United States was imminent, members of the Guards and other officials told The Times. They also hoped that the presence of passenger jets could act as a deterrent against an American attack on the airport or the nearby military base, effectively turning planeloads of unsuspecting travelers into human shields.

After Iran’s missile attack began, the central air defense command issued an alert that American warplanes had taken off from the United Arab Emirates and that cruise missiles were headed toward Iran.

The officer on the missile launcher near the airport heard the warnings but did not hear a later message that the cruise missile alert was a false alarm.

The warning about American warplanes may have also been wrong. United States military officials have said that no American planes were in or near Iranian airspace that night.

When the officer spotted the Ukrainian jet, he sought permission to fire. But he was unable to communicate with his commanders because the network had been disrupted or jammed, General Hajizadeh said later.

The officer, who has not been publicly identified, fired two missiles, less than 30 seconds apart.

General Hajizadeh, who was in western Iran supervising the attack on the Americans, received a phone call with the news.

“I called the officials and told them this has happened and it’s highly possible we hit our own plane,” he said later in a televised statement.

By the time General Hajizadeh arrived in Tehran, he had informed Iran’s top three military commanders: Maj. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, the army’s commander in chief, who is also the chief of the central air defense command; Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Armed Forces; and Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards.

The Revolutionary Guards, an elite force charged with defending Iran’s clerical rule at home and abroad, is separate from the regular army and answers only to the supreme leader. At this point, the leaders of both militaries knew the truth.

General Hajizadeh advised the generals not to tell the rank-and-file air defense units for fear that it could hamper their ability to react quickly if the United States did attack.

“It was for the benefit of our national security because then our air defense system would be compromised,” Mr. Hajizadeh said in an interview with Iranian news media this week. “The ranks would be suspicious of everything.”

The military leaders created a secret investigative committee drawn from the Guards’ aerospace forces, from the army’s air defense, and from intelligence and cyberexperts. The committee and the officers involved in the shooting were sequestered and ordered not to speak to anyone.

The committee examined data from the airport, the flight path, radar networks, and alerts and messages from the missile operator and central command. Witnesses — the officer who had pulled the trigger, his supervisors and everyone involved — were interrogated for hours.

The group also investigated the possibility that the United States or Israel may have hacked Iran’s defense system or jammed the airwaves.

By Wednesday night, the committee had concluded that the plane was shot down because of human error.

“We were not confident about what happened until Wednesday around sunset,” General Salami, the commander in chief of the Guards, said later in a televised address to the Parliament. “Our investigative team concluded then that the plane crashed because of human errors.”

Ayatollah Khamenei was informed. But they still did not inform the president, other elected officials or the public.

Senior commanders discussed keeping the shooting secret until the plane’s black boxes — the flight data and cockpit voice recorders — were examined and formal aviation investigations completed, according to members of the Guards, diplomats and officials with knowledge of the deliberations. That process could take months, they argued, and it would buy time to manage the domestic and international fallout that would ensue when the truth came out.

The government had violently crushed an anti-government uprising in November. But the American killing of General Suleimani, followed by the strikes against the United States, had turned public opinion around. Iranians were galvanized in a moment of national unity.

The authorities feared that admitting to shooting down the passenger plane would undercut that momentum and prompt a new wave of anti-government protests.

“They advocated covering it up because they thought the country couldn’t handle more crisis,” said a ranking member of the Guards who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “At the end, safeguarding the Islamic Republic is our ultimate goal, at any cost.”

That evening, the spokesman for the Joint Armed Forces, Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, told Iranian news media that suggestions that missiles struck the plane were “an absolute lie.”

On Thursday, as Ukrainian investigators began to arrive in Tehran, Western officials were saying publicly that they had evidence that Iran had accidentally shot down the plane.

A chorus of senior Iranian officials — from the director of civil aviation to the chief government spokesman — issued statement after statement rejecting the allegations, their claims amplified on state media.

The suggestion that Iran would shoot down a passenger plane was a “Western plot,” they said, “psychological warfare” aimed at weakening Iran just as it had exercised its military muscle against the United States.

But in private, government officials were alarmed and questioning whether there was any truth to the Western claims. Mr. Rouhani, a seasoned military strategist himself, and his foreign minister, Javad Zarif, deflected phone calls from world leaders and foreign ministers seeking answers. Ignorant of what their own military had done, they had none to give.

Domestically, public pressure was building for the government to address the allegations.

Among the plane’s passengers were some of Iran’s best and brightest. They included prominent scientists and physicians, dozens of Iran’s top young scholars and graduates of elite universities, and six gold and silver medal winners of international physics and math Olympiads.

There were two newlywed couples who had traveled from Canada to Tehran for their weddings just days earlier. There were families and young children.

Their relatives demanded answers. Iranian social media began to explode with emotional commentary, some accusing Iran of murdering its own citizens and others calling such allegations treason.

Persian-language satellite channels operating from abroad, the main source of news for most Iranians, broadcast blanket coverage of the crash, including reports from Western governments that Iran had shot down the plane.

Mr. Rouhani tried several times to call military commanders, officials said, but they did not return his calls. Members of his government called their contacts in the military and were told the allegations were false. Iran’s civil aviation agency called military officials with similar results.

“Thursday was frantic,” Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman, said later in a news conference. “The government made back-to-back phone calls and contacted the armed forces asking what happened, and the answer to all the questions was that no missile had been fired.”

On Friday morning, Mr. Rabiei issued a statement saying the allegation that Iran had shot down the plane was “a big lie.”

Several hours later, the nation’s top military commanders called a private meeting and told Mr. Rouhani the truth.

Mr. Rouhani was livid, according to officials close to him. He demanded that Iran immediately announce that it had made a tragic mistake and accept the consequences.

The military officials pushed back, arguing that the fallout could destabilize the country.

Mr. Rouhani threatened to resign.

Canada, which had the most foreign citizens on board the plane, and the United States, which as Boeing’s home country was invited to investigate the crash, would eventually reveal their evidence, Mr. Rouhani said. The damage to Iran’s reputation and the public trust in the government would create an enormous crisis at a time when Iran could not bear more pressure.

As the standoff escalated, a member of Ayatollah Khamenei’s inner circle who was in the meeting informed the supreme leader. The ayatollah sent a message back to the group, ordering the government to prepare a public statement acknowledging what had happened.

Mr. Rouhani briefed a few senior members of his government. They were rattled.

Mr. Rabiei, the government spokesman who had issued a denial just that morning, broke down. Abbas Abdi, a prominent critic of Iran’s clerical establishment, said that when he spoke to Mr. Rabiei that evening, Mr. Rabiei was distraught and crying.

“Everything is a lie,” Mr. Rabiei said, according to Mr. Abdi. “The whole thing is a lie. What should I do? My honor is gone.”

Mr. Abdi said the government’s actions had gone “far beyond” just a lie.

“There was a systematic cover-up at the highest levels that makes it impossible to get out of this crisis,” he said.

Iran’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting and drafted two statements, the first to be issued by the Joint Armed Forces followed by a second one from Mr. Rouhani.

As they debated the wording, some suggested claiming that the United States or Israel may have contributed to the accident by jamming Iran’s radars or hacking its communications networks.

But the military commanders opposed it. General Hajizadeh said the shame of human error paled compared with admitting his air defense system was vulnerable to hacking by the enemy.

Iran’s Civil Aviation Agency later said that it had found no evidence of jamming or hacking.

At 7 a.m., the military released a statement admitting that Iran had shot down the plane because of “human error.”

The bombshell revelation has not ended the division within the government. The Revolutionary Guards want to pin the blame on those involved in firing the missiles and be done with it, officials said. The missile operator and up to 10 others have been arrested but officials have not identified them or said whether they had been charged.

Mr. Rouhani has demanded a broader accounting, including an investigation of the entire chain of command. The Guards’ accepting responsibility, he said, is “the first step and needs to be completed with other steps.” His spokesman and lawmakers have demanded to know why Mr. Rouhani was not immediately informed.

Mr. Rouhani touched on that concern when he put out his statement an hour and 15 minutes later. The first line said that he had found out about the investigative committee’s conclusion about cause of the crash “a few hours ago.”

It was a stunning admission, an acknowledgment that even the nation’s highest elected official had been shut out from the truth, and that as Iranians, and the world, turned to the government for answers, it had peddled lies.

“What we thought was news was a lie. What we thought was a lie was news,” said Hesamedin Ashna, Mr. Rouhani’s top adviser, on Twitter. “Why? Why? Beware of cover-ups and military rule.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Anatomy of a Lie: How Iran Covered Up the Downing of an Airliner

Westlake Legal Group 00iran-plane11-facebookJumbo Anatomy of a Lie: How Iran Covered Up the Downing of an Airliner Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 Suleimani, Qassim Rouhani, Hassan Politics and Government Missiles and Missile Defense Systems Khamenei, Ali Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters

When the Revolutionary Guards officer spotted what he thought was an unidentified aircraft near Tehran’s international airport, he had seconds to decide whether to pull the trigger.

Iran had just fired a barrage of ballistic missiles at American forces, the country was on high alert for an American counterattack, and the Iranian military was warning of incoming cruise missiles.

The officer tried to reach the command center for authorization to shoot but couldn’t get through. So he fired an antiaircraft missile. Then another.

The plane, which turned out to be a Ukrainian jetliner with 176 people on board, crashed and exploded in a ball of fire.

Within minutes, the top commanders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards realized what they had done. And at that moment, they began to cover it up.

For days, they refused to tell even President Hassan Rouhani, whose government was publicly denying that the plane had been shot down. When they finally told him, he gave them an ultimatum: come clean or he would resign.

Only then, 72 hours after the plane crashed, did Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, step in and order the government to acknowledge its fatal mistake.

The New York Times pieced together a chronology of those three days by interviewing Iranian diplomats, current and former government officials, ranking members of the Revolutionary Guards and people close to the supreme leader’s inner circle and by examining official public statements and state media reports.

The reporting exposes the government’s behind-the-scenes debate over covering up Iran’s responsibility for the crash while shocked Iranians, grieving relatives and countries with citizens aboard the plane waited for the truth.

The new details also demonstrate the outsize power of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which effectively sidelined the elected government in a moment of national crisis, and could deepen what many Iranians already see as a crisis of legitimacy for the Guards and the government.

The bitter divisions in Iran’s government persist and are bound to affect the investigation into the crash, negotiations over compensation and the unresolved debate over accountability.

Around midnight on Jan. 7, as Iran was preparing to launch a ballistic-missile attack on American military posts in Iraq, senior members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps deployed mobile antiaircraft defense units around a sensitive military area near Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport.

Iran was about to retaliate for the American drone strike that had killed Iran’s top military commander, Gen. Qassim Suleimani, in Baghdad five days earlier, and the military was bracing for an American counterstrike. The armed forces were on “at war” status, the highest alert level.

But in a tragic miscalculation, the government continued to allow civilian commercial flights to land and take off from the Tehran airport.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the Guards’ Aerospace Force, said later that his units had asked officials in Tehran to close Iran’s airspace and ground all flights, to no avail.

Iranian officials feared that shutting down the airport would create mass panic that war with the United States was imminent, members of the Guards and other officials told The Times. They also hoped that the presence of passenger jets could act as a deterrent against an American attack on the airport or the nearby military base, effectively turning planeloads of unsuspecting travelers into human shields.

After Iran’s missile attack began, the central air defense command issued an alert that American warplanes had taken off from the United Arab Emirates and that cruise missiles were headed toward Iran.

The officer on the missile launcher near the airport heard the warnings but did not hear a later message that the cruise missile alert was a false alarm.

The warning about American warplanes may have also been wrong. United States military officials have said that no American planes were in or near Iranian airspace that night.

When the officer spotted the Ukrainian jet, he sought permission to fire. But he was unable to communicate with his commanders because the network had been disrupted or jammed, General Hajizadeh said later.

The officer, who has not been publicly identified, fired two missiles, less than 30 seconds apart.

General Hajizadeh, who was in western Iran supervising the attack on the Americans, received a phone call with the news.

“I called the officials and told them this has happened and it’s highly possible we hit our own plane,” he said later in a televised statement.

By the time General Hajizadeh arrived in Tehran, he had informed Iran’s top three military commanders: Maj. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, the army’s commander in chief, who is also the chief of the central air defense command; Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Armed Forces; and Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards.

The Revolutionary Guards, an elite force charged with defending Iran’s clerical rule at home and abroad, is separate from the regular army and answers only to the supreme leader. At this point, the leaders of both militaries knew the truth.

General Hajizadeh advised the generals not to tell the rank-and-file air defense units for fear that it could hamper their ability to react quickly if the United States did attack.

“It was for the benefit of our national security because then our air defense system would be compromised,” Mr. Hajizadeh said in an interview with Iranian news media this week. “The ranks would be suspicious of everything.”

The military leaders created a secret investigative committee drawn from the Guards’ aerospace forces, from the army’s air defense, and from intelligence and cyberexperts. The committee and the officers involved in the shooting were sequestered and ordered not to speak to anyone.

The committee examined data from the airport, the flight path, radar networks, and alerts and messages from the missile operator and central command. Witnesses — the officer who had pulled the trigger, his supervisors and everyone involved — were interrogated for hours.

The group also investigated the possibility that the United States or Israel may have hacked Iran’s defense system or jammed the airwaves.

By Wednesday night, the committee had concluded that the plane was shot down because of human error.

“We were not confident about what happened until Wednesday around sunset,” General Salami, the commander in chief of the Guards, said later in a televised address to the Parliament. “Our investigative team concluded then that the plane crashed because of human errors.”

Ayatollah Khamenei was informed. But they still did not inform the president, other elected officials or the public.

Senior commanders discussed keeping the shooting secret until the plane’s black boxes — the flight data and cockpit voice recorders — were examined and formal aviation investigations completed, according to members of the Guards, diplomats and officials with knowledge of the deliberations. That process could take months, they argued, and it would buy time to manage the domestic and international fallout that would ensue when the truth came out.

The government had violently crushed an anti-government uprising in November. But the American killing of General Suleimani, followed by the strikes against the United States, had turned public opinion around. Iranians were galvanized in a moment of national unity.

The authorities feared that admitting to shooting down the passenger plane would undercut that momentum and prompt a new wave of anti-government protests.

“They advocated covering it up because they thought the country couldn’t handle more crisis,” said a ranking member of the Guards who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “At the end, safeguarding the Islamic Republic is our ultimate goal, at any cost.”

That evening, the spokesman for the Joint Armed Forces, Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, told Iranian news media that suggestions that missiles struck the plane were “an absolute lie.”

On Thursday, as Ukrainian investigators began to arrive in Tehran, Western officials were saying publicly that they had evidence that Iran had accidentally shot down the plane.

A chorus of senior Iranian officials — from the director of civil aviation to the chief government spokesman — issued statement after statement rejecting the allegations, their claims amplified on state media.

The suggestion that Iran would shoot down a passenger plane was a “Western plot,” they said, “psychological warfare” aimed at weakening Iran just as it had exercised its military muscle against the United States.

But in private, government officials were alarmed and questioning whether there was any truth to the Western claims. Mr. Rouhani, a seasoned military strategist himself, and his foreign minister, Javad Zarif, deflected phone calls from world leaders and foreign ministers seeking answers. Ignorant of what their own military had done, they had none to give.

Domestically, public pressure was building for the government to address the allegations.

Among the plane’s passengers were some of Iran’s best and brightest. They included prominent scientists and physicians, dozens of Iran’s top young scholars and graduates of elite universities, and six gold and silver medal winners of international physics and math Olympiads.

There were two newlywed couples who had traveled from Canada to Tehran for their weddings just days earlier. There were families and young children.

Their relatives demanded answers. Iranian social media began to explode with emotional commentary, some accusing Iran of murdering its own citizens and others calling such allegations treason.

Persian-language satellite channels operating from abroad, the main source of news for most Iranians, broadcast blanket coverage of the crash, including reports from Western governments that Iran had shot down the plane.

Mr. Rouhani tried several times to call military commanders, officials said, but they did not return his calls. Members of his government called their contacts in the military and were told the allegations were false. Iran’s civil aviation agency called military officials with similar results.

“Thursday was frantic,” Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman, said later in a news conference. “The government made back-to-back phone calls and contacted the armed forces asking what happened, and the answer to all the questions was that no missile had been fired.”

On Friday morning, Mr. Rabiei issued a statement saying the allegation that Iran had shot down the plane was “a big lie.”

Several hours later, the nation’s top military commanders called a private meeting and told Mr. Rouhani the truth.

Mr. Rouhani was livid, according to officials close to him. He demanded that Iran immediately announce that it had made a tragic mistake and accept the consequences.

The military officials pushed back, arguing that the fallout could destabilize the country.

Mr. Rouhani threatened to resign.

Canada, which had the most foreign citizens on board the plane, and the United States, which as Boeing’s home country was invited to investigate the crash, would eventually reveal their evidence, Mr. Rouhani said. The damage to Iran’s reputation and the public trust in the government would create an enormous crisis at a time when Iran could not bear more pressure.

As the standoff escalated, a member of Ayatollah Khamenei’s inner circle who was in the meeting informed the supreme leader. The ayatollah sent a message back to the group, ordering the government to prepare a public statement acknowledging what had happened.

Mr. Rouhani briefed a few senior members of his government. They were rattled.

Mr. Rabiei, the government spokesman who had issued a denial just that morning, broke down. Abbas Abdi, a prominent critic of Iran’s clerical establishment, said that when he spoke to Mr. Rabiei that evening, Mr. Rabiei was distraught and crying.

“Everything is a lie,” Mr. Rabiei said, according to Mr. Abdi. “The whole thing is a lie. What should I do? My honor is gone.”

Mr. Abdi said the government’s actions had gone “far beyond” just a lie.

“There was a systematic cover-up at the highest levels that makes it impossible to get out of this crisis,” he said.

Iran’s National Security Council held an emergency meeting and drafted two statements, the first to be issued by the Joint Armed Forces followed by a second one from Mr. Rouhani.

As they debated the wording, some suggested claiming that the United States or Israel may have contributed to the accident by jamming Iran’s radars or hacking its communications networks.

But the military commanders opposed it. General Hajizadeh said the shame of human error paled compared with admitting his air defense system was vulnerable to hacking by the enemy.

Iran’s Civil Aviation Agency later said that it had found no evidence of jamming or hacking.

At 7 a.m., the military released a statement admitting that Iran had shot down the plane because of “human error.”

The bombshell revelation has not ended the division within the government. The Revolutionary Guards want to pin the blame on those involved in firing the missiles and be done with it, officials said. The missile operator and up to 10 others have been arrested but officials have not identified them or said whether they had been charged.

Mr. Rouhani has demanded a broader accounting, including an investigation of the entire chain of command. The Guards’ accepting responsibility, he said, is “the first step and needs to be completed with other steps.” His spokesman and lawmakers have demanded to know why Mr. Rouhani was not immediately informed.

Mr. Rouhani touched on that concern when he put out his statement an hour and 15 minutes later. The first line said that he had found out about the investigative committee’s conclusion about cause of the crash “a few hours ago.”

It was a stunning admission, an acknowledgment that even the nation’s highest elected official had been shut out from the truth, and that as Iranians, and the world, turned to the government for answers, it had peddled lies.

“What we thought was news was a lie. What we thought was a lie was news,” said Hesamedin Ashna, Mr. Rouhani’s top adviser, on Twitter. “Why? Why? Beware of cover-ups and military rule.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

34 Troops Have Brain Injuries From Iranian Missile Strike, Pentagon Says

Westlake Legal Group merlin_167307816_d0e6c57a-9e1f-4363-861b-39c3ef72e87b-facebookJumbo 34 Troops Have Brain Injuries From Iranian Missile Strike, Pentagon Says United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Traumatic Brain Injury Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Iraq Iran Defense Department brain

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department said Friday that 34 American service members have traumatic brain injuries from Iranian airstrikes on Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, contradicting President Trump’s dismissal of injuries among American troops earlier this week.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told a news conference that eight of the affected service members have returned to the United States from an American military hospital in Germany.

Mr. Trump on Wednesday dismissed concussion symptoms felt by the troops as “not very serious,” even as the Pentagon acknowledged that a number of American service members were being studied for possible traumatic brain injury caused by the attack.

“I heard they had headaches,” Mr. Trump told a news conference in Davos, Switzerland. “I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries I have seen.”

The comments of the president, who avoided the Vietnam War draft thanks to a diagnosis of bone spurs, drew swift criticism from veterans groups.

“Don’t just be outraged by #PresidentMayhem’s latest asinine comments,” Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, wrote in a Twitter post that day. “Take action to help vets facing TBIs,” meaning traumatic brain injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries result from the powerful changes in atmospheric pressure that accompany an explosion like that from a missile warhead.

The missiles were launched by Iran in retaliation for the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, by an American drone strike in Baghdad on Jan. 3. The Trump administration at first said that there were no injuries from the Iranian attack on American troops.

Pentagon and military officials said subsequently that any delay in reporting the injuries was because it took time for the information to work its way up the chain of command to leaders in Washington. Officials also noted that symptoms from brain injuries do not always appear immediately.

Of the 34 service members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, 17 were flown by medical evacuation aircraft to Germany. Nine remain in the military hospital there, while the others were flown to the United States.

One person was taken by medevac to Kuwait. Sixteen service members were treated for traumatic brain injury in Iraq and have returned to duty, officials said.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Rebukes U.S. in Rare Friday Sermon

Iran’s supreme leader struck a defiant tone in a rare public sermon on Friday, calling the United States an “arrogant power” and telling tens of thousands of chanting worshipers that God’s backing had allowed his country to “slap the face” of the United States.

In his first such address in eight years, the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sought to rally supporters and undermine critics after weeks of turbulence in the Middle East that brought Iran and the United States to the brink of war and prompted street protests in Iran over the accidental downing of a civilian jetliner by Iranian forces.

Mr. Khamenei offered only scant condolences to the families who lost relatives in the crash, and instead sought to project strength. He dismissed protesters as “stooges of the United States,” lauded Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s foreign operations chief who was killed in an American drone strike, and praised a retaliatory Iranian missile attack on United States forces in Iraq.

“These two weeks were extraordinary and eventful. Bitter and sweet events. Lessons we learned. The Iranian people went through a lot,” he said. “We delivered a slap to U.S.’s image as a superpower.”

He added that President Trump was a “clown” who only pretended to support the Iranian people but would “push a poisonous dagger” into their backs.

The event, choreographed to present an image of power and unity, skirted the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane on Jan. 8 by Iranian forces that killed all 176 people on board. A lone banner featuring an airplane hung between huge pictures of General Suleimani.

The downing of the jet — followed by three days of denials by Iranian officials — spurred a new wave of protests across the country that Iranian security forces have sought to quell with bullets and tear gas.

On Friday, the Ukrainian foreign minister, Vadym Prystaiko, said that an Iranian representative would travel to Ukraine next week and that Iran had agreed to hand over data and voice recorders from the downed plane after they had been examined by a team of experts from Canada, Iran and Ukraine.

Nearly 45 minutes into his sermon, Mr. Khamenei said his “heart burned” for the victims of the crash, but he quickly accused Iran’s enemies of seeking to capitalize on the tragedy to overshadow the killing of General Suleimani and the missile strikes on two bases that housed American troops in Iraq.

“As much as we were sad about the crash, our enemy was happy about it,” he said. “They thought they found an excuse to undermine the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and our armed forces and question the Islamic Republic.”

Westlake Legal Group iran-tehran-airport-crash-flights-promo-1578698739538-articleLarge Iran’s Supreme Leader Rebukes U.S. in Rare Friday Sermon Trump, Donald J Targeted Killings Suleimani, Qassim Prayers and Prayer Books Politics and Government Khamenei, Ali Iran Demonstrations, Protests and Riots

Flights In and Out of Tehran Continued After Missile Strikes and Plane Crash

Planes took off after Iran’s missile strikes on bases in Iraq, and even after a Ukrainian plane crashed shortly after takeoff.

Forgoing Tehran University, where Mr. Khamenei usually speaks, he appeared for communal Muslim prayers on Friday at Tehran’s Grand Mosalla, a large complex used as a communal prayer center for Muslim holidays and as an arena for election campaigns.

Crowds streamed in several hours before his sermon began, including schoolchildren, government employees and worshipers from neighboring provinces who had been bused in from their local mosques.

The complex had been outfitted with political messages: American flags were spread on the floor in the entrances so that worshipers could tread on them. Uniformed soldiers handed out posters of General Suleimani and red headbands with “God is Great” written in Arabic.

President Hassan Rouhani, who is seen as a moderate, was in the front row as Mr. Khamenei spoke. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also sat nearby, as did Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ aerospace forces who has said units under his command were responsible for shooting down the plane. Iranian lawmakers, politicians and other citizens have called for his resignation over the downing.

Video

transcript

Ukrainian Flight 752: How a Plane Came Down in 7 Minutes

Iranians have taken to the streets in protest after the government admitted, after three days of denials, that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet. Here’s everything we know about that seven-minute flight.

We first learned that it was a missile that took down a Ukrainian airliner over Iran because of this video showing the moment of impact. All 176 people on board were killed. To find out what happened to Flight 752 after it left Tehran airport on Jan. 8, we collected flight data, analyzed witness videos and images of the crash site, to paint the clearest picture yet of that disastrous seven-minute flight. We’ll walk you through the evidence, minute by minute, from the plane’s takeoff to the moment it crashed. It’s the early hours of Wednesday, Jan. 8. Iran has just launched ballistic missiles at U.S. military targets in Iraq in retaliation for an American drone strike that killed Iranian military leader Qassim Suleimani. Iranian defenses are on high alert, on guard for a possible U.S. attack. Four hours later, at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, Flight 752, operated by Ukraine International Airlines, is getting ready for departure. At 6:12 a.m., the plane takes off. It flies northwest, and climbs to almost 8,000 feet in around three minutes, according to flight tracker data. It’s following its regular route. Up ahead are several military sites. Until now, the plane’s transponder has been signaling normally. But just before 6:15 a.m., it stops. This is where the first missile hits the plane. Footage from a security camera near one of the military sites shows the missile launch. It hits the plane, and knocks out the transponder. But the airliner keeps flying. A security camera, directly beneath, shows what happens next. A second missile launches 30 seconds after the first, and it explodes, moments later. A third video shows the impact. Let’s watch it again, and slow it down. Here is the missile, and here is the plane. An Iranian military commander said a defense system operator mistook the passenger jet for a cruise missile. The plane is now on fire. We don’t know its precise path after 6:15 a.m., but we do know that it turns back in the direction of the airport. It continues flying for several minutes, engulfed by flames. Around 6:19 a.m., a bystander films the plane slowly going down. There appears to be second explosion before the jetliner plummets outside Tehran about 10 miles from where the last signal was sent. A security camera captures that moment as the plane crashes toward it. Here we see the immediate aftermath of the crash. As day breaks, another witness films the smoldering wreckage. Debris is spread out over 1,500 feet along a small park, orchards and a soccer field, narrowly missing a nearby village. A large section of the plane looks badly charred. More jet parts are found here, and the plane’s tail and wheels land over 500 feet away. It is a gruesome scene. The passengers’ personal items — toys, clothes, photo albums — are scattered around. After days of denials, Iran took responsibility for the crash, blaming human error at a moment of heightened tensions.

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Iranians have taken to the streets in protest after the government admitted, after three days of denials, that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet. Here’s everything we know about that seven-minute flight.CreditCredit…Akbar Tavakoli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Large banners inside the complex featured the face of General Suleimani and other men who were killed alongside him in United States drone strikes, ordered by Mr. Trump, near the Baghdad airport on Jan. 2. Other banners read, “Death to America.”

Mr. Khamenei, 80, Iran’s top political and religious official, delivers Friday sermons only at times of serious crisis that require his intervention. His last such sermon was in 2012, during the Arab Spring uprisings in the region. He also spoke in 2009, during widespread protests in Iran contesting the results of a presidential election that became known as the Green Movement.

In both instances, Mr. Khamenei’s reinforced the government’s hard line by ordering people off the streets.

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11 Americans Were Hurt in Iranian Strike, Military Says, Contradicting Trump

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Eleven American troops were treated for concussions after Iranian missiles struck two Iraqi bases where the servicemembers were stationed, the military said on Thursday, contradicting earlier statements by President Trump that no Americans had been injured.

The Jan. 8 attack on bases near Baghdad and Erbil, Iraq, were launched in retaliation for the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, a senior figure in Iran’s military, in a drone strike ordered by Mr. Trump.

“While no U.S. servicemembers were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for United States Central Command, said in a statement.

In a speech, Mr. Trump had said that no Americans were hurt in the strike, in which at least a dozen missiles were fired.

“I’m pleased to inform you the American people should be extremely grateful and happy,” the president said on Jan. 8. “No Americans were harmed in last night’s attack by the Iranian regime.”

Captain Urban said the injured troops were taken to American military sites in Germany and Kuwait to undergo screening, and that “when deemed fit for duty, the servicemembers are expected to return to Iraq.”

The lack of American deaths in the strikes was a welcome relief to American officials, who had feared General Suleimani’s killing could set off a larger regional conflict. By Jan. 9, the day after the strike, both countries had publicly said they would de-escalate direct military action.

The general’s death and the subsequent missile strike, however, set other events in motion, including the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet in Tehran by the Iranian military, in which 176 people were killed, and a resolution by the Iraqi Parliament calling for the expulsion of foreign forces from the country.

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Garvan Walshe: The shooting down of flight PS752 does Iran’s rulers more harm than the assassination of Soleimani

Garvan Walshe is a former National and International Security Policy Adviser to the Conservative Party. He runs TRD Policy.

This is the Islamic Revolution’s Gerald Ratner moment. The mullahs’ rule is based on three articles of faith that time turned into lies: that Iran is a democracy; that the people who run it are holy men; and that Iran is besieged by enemies against whom an expensive military industrial complex must be maintained to ensure that Iran’s enemies are fighting “over there” in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, not over here in Iran itself.

General Qasem Soleimani led that the sharp end of that military industrial complex: the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), established to protect the revolution from a regular Army considered loyal to the Shah, converted into a huge force that managed the proxy forces Iran used to build influence across the region, and fight an undeclared war against the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel. His assassination was merely a spectacular coup in an ongoing conflict.

The downing of Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752 has become the most serious threat to the regime since the rigging of the presidential election in 2009 to give Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term in office.

It is a mistake to compare the death of Soleimani with a terrorist leader like Osama bin Laden or drug kingpin “El Chapo” Guzmán. They were in charge of autonomous organisations. Soleimani, for all his bravado, was the servant of of an institutionalised theocracy now entering its fifth decade. America’s public bragging about killing him may have required some equally spectacular revenge, but the Iranian system is too robust to be thrown off course by the removal of one general, however skilled.

Their “response” has been to plug the gap in the IRGC command structure, exploit his funeral for propaganda purposes, and otherwise continue to pursue what they see as Iranian interests. They tried to divert Iraqi anger, which had been mounting against Iran, towards the United States, but this was taking advantage of the backlash against the assassination to pursue the long-term goal of expelling US troops. The assassination also gave Iran cover to further breach the JCPOA nuclear deal, which had outlived its usefulness to them once the Trump Administration withdrew from it. These should not be understood as responses or retaliation, but the Iranians learning from the ancient American proverb: “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

The fog of war has started to obscure the formal act of spectacular retaliation: the use of ballistic missiles (as opposed to rockets) to attack American bases in Iraq. One story has it that the Iranians warned the Iraqis who warned the United States about it hours in advance; another that the CIA had picked up intelligence, and dispersed a warning to troops in theatre; a third that the attack caught troops off-guard, giving them 15 minutes to wake up and run to the base’s bomb shelters.

Certainly, the narrative that Iran conducted an attack designed to avoid casualties, as though it were the IRA phoning in a coded warning to Waterloo train station, is too neat. Messages could be passed to the US, but how could they be sure, particularly in this administration, that they would be taken seriously? Is it wise to rely on a military bureaucracy to transmit the warning to the right place in time? (Answer: No) Even if a casualty-free attack had been the plan, it was a plan with a significant risk of going wrong, and provoking a spectacular counter-attack from the United States.

It was in this atmosphere that a jumpy air-defence commander gave the order to fire twice at the Ukrainian Airlines jet, killing all on board, and provoking the fateful cover-up by the authorities (the unfortunate man whose video first provided external evidence that a missile hit the plane has been taken in for questioning). The incident has now been tossed into the crucible of Iranian politics, a system where in December the regime killed 1,500 people protesting against the government.

Iran is twice divided: between the people and the regime establishment; and within the establishment between hardline and reformist factions, which the Supreme Leader must balance. His own politics are adamantine, but he has to allow reform some success as a safety valve, without yielding reformists so much power that they actually reform the system. The reformist president Hassan Rouhani has proved too weak, shifting opposition from within the system back out onto the streets.

Thus Rouhani’s call for a special inquiry into events surrounding the shooting down of the airliner (think of something more like a French-style investigating magistrate than a British public inquiry, because the presiding judge would have the power to put people in prison) both to exact revenge against the Revolutionary Guards, whom he accuses of jailing his brother, and sabotaging the nuclear détente which was to bring economic relief; and also to show the furious public the system can deliver if the “right people” are put in charge.

How far the inquiry will be allowed to go is a matter for the Supreme Leader. Restrict it too much, and it will be clocked for a whitewash. Allow it to do its work and it might take down too many of his own supporters.

This explains the apparently bizarre situation where the President and Foreign minister are accusing their own government of lying about the plane. The message they hope to send is that it’s not their part of the system that shot it down. But the message received is that the system has admitted it’s run by lying crooks who cover up murder. And it is when regimes admit their own lies that they are at their most fragile.

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U.S. Military Resumes Joint Operations With Iraq

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BAGHDAD — The United States military resumed joint operations with Iraq on Wednesday, military officials said, ending a two-week pause that began when the American Embassy in Baghdad was attacked on New Year’s Day.

The decision to restart military operations came a little more than two weeks after Iraq’s Parliament voted to expel all American forces from the country. The government accused the United States of violating Iraqi sovereignty by carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, including one on Jan. 3 that killed Iran’s top military commander, a leader of Iraqi militia forces and eight other people.

Two American military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the missions to reporters, confirmed that the joint operations had restarted.

They said the military wanted to resume operations against the Islamic State as soon as possible to blunt any momentum the group might have and to stifle any propaganda victory it might claim because the United States had suspended the operation.

It was unclear on Wednesday whether anyone in the Iraqi government approved the resumption of joint missions — it was the Americans who stopped them, not the Iraqis — and Iraqi officials could not be reached for comment.

Iraq’s acting prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who has said that his government would comply with Parliament’s order to expel American forces, seemed to soften his position on Wednesday.

In a speech to his cabinet, he suggested that Parliament’s decision might not be the final word, saying “If we reach the decision to get the forces out of Iraq, then this would be the decision of the Iraqi government.”

He also noted that if the government expelled the Americans, it would follow “an appropriate time line,” suggesting that any departure might not be immediate. He also reminded the ministers that “ISIS has begun to reorganize and plan invasions and attacks.”

Mr. Abdul Mahdi had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the weekend to send delegates to Iraq to work out the details of a troop withdrawal, according to a statement released by his office.

Mr. Pompeo refused, saying the American mission in Iraq was to train Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State, and “we’re going to continue that mission.”

The State Department said that the United States would only be willing to discuss “appropriate force posture in the Middle East.”

Despite the Iraqi government’s moves toward expelling the Americans, some Iraqi security officials have opposed the idea, saying they were needed to help fight the remnants of the Islamic State and prevent its resurgence, as well as to support coalition troops from other countries.

If the Americans and most other coalition militaries left, the Iraqis could continue to fight the extremists on their own, but would likely be hampered by a lack of drone-based intelligence and air cover, according to senior coalition military officials.

The Islamic State, which a few years ago controlled a large part of Iraq, no longer controls territory there but remains active in some pockets and claims a few Iraqi lives almost every week.

Removing the United States military from Iraq would take more than a vote in Parliament. According to American officials, it would require the Iraqi government to annul the agreements it has made allowing the American and coalition forces to train, advise and assist in the fight against the Islamic State.

The coalition’s mission was suspended on Jan. 1 after a crowd of angry fighters for pro-Iranian militias stormed and defaced the American Embassy in Baghdad in response to American airstrikes against one of the militia groups, Kataib Hezbollah.

Two days later, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles into a convoy at the Baghdad airport, killing the Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chief of a coalition of Iraqi militias, and eight other people.

That attack led to the vote by Iraq’s Parliament to expel American forces from the country and a counterstrike by Iran on two American military posts in Iraq last week.

Alissa J. Rubin reported from Baghdad, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

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Senate Has Votes to Pass Limits on Trump’s Iran War Power, Likely Drawing a Veto

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WASHINGTON — A measure that would force President Trump to win congressional authorization before taking further military action against Iran now has enough Republican support to pass the Senate, a key Democratic senator said Tuesday.

The senator, Tim Kaine of Virginia, said at least four Republicans would break ranks to pass a bill to curtail Mr. Trump’s war-making powers, underscoring growing dissatisfaction with the president’s Iran strategy among members of his own party. It would be a rebuke to the president as his impeachment trial gets underway and will most likely set up the seventh veto of his presidency.

The Republican defectors “were discouraged that the attitude that was being communicated to us was that Congress was an annoyance,” Mr. Kaine said. “After that, they came to me and we have been able to make some amendments.”

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the Republicans who will support the measure, said in a statement that “Congress cannot be sidelined on these important decisions.” She said that although the resolution would continue to allow Mr. Trump to repel an imminent attack, “only the legislative branch may declare war or commit our armed forces to a sustained military conflict with Iran.”

Joining her in planning to vote with the Democrats were Senators Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Lawmakers have grown increasingly angry over Mr. Trump’s shifting justifications for a Jan. 3 strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most important general, and sent the two nations to the brink of war.

What most angered them was a classified, closed-door briefing last week from the president’s national security team. White House officials at the briefing, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, cautioned lawmakers not to question the president’s judgment on Iran, according to people who were there.

Mr. Lee and Mr. Paul cited the administration’s “demeaning” briefing when they pledged to support Mr. Kaine’s bill.

A torrent of shifting statements from administration officials in the past week on the reasons for General Suleimani’s killing had also privately rankled Republican lawmakers. On Monday, the narrative collapsed entirely when Mr. Trump tweeted that the focus on whether General Suleimani was planning an imminent attack on American interests, as the administration had initially claimed, was irrelevant. “It doesn’t really matter,” he wrote, “because of his horrible past.”

“In conversations with Republican colleagues, especially after the briefing last week, they were discouraged that the attitude that was being communicated to us was that Congress was an annoyance,” Mr. Kaine said. “After that, they came to me and we have been able to make some amendments.”

The resolution, which would give Mr. Trump a 30-day deadline to come to Congress for authorization for military action in Iran, would still need to be passed by the House. And it would be unlikely to overcome a veto from the president.

Mr. Kaine introduced the measure, which invokes the War Powers Act of 1973, as a privileged joint resolution, which allows him to force a vote on the measure and win over the support of a simple majority of senators. With 45 Democrats in the Senate and two independents who routinely vote with them, Mr. Kaine needed just four Republicans to sign on.

The vote could come as early as next week, though it is unclear if the timing will be affected by the impeachment trial, which Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, announced would begin next Tuesday. Democratic leaders will also need to corral senators running for president back to the Capitol to ensure passage.

The House passed similar legislation last week, though that measure was viewed as largely symbolic without the force of law.

But even Mr. Kaine’s legislation, considered to be the stronger of the two measures, has its limitations. The War Powers Resolution restricts actions only by the United States military, so it would not stop Mr. Trump from carrying out targeted attacks on Iranian military leaders or other discrete operations, as long as he carried them out covertly under the authority of the C.I.A.

Congress has rarely passed legislation invoking the War Powers Act in an attempt to restrain a president’s war-making authority. Last year, it sent to Mr. Trump just such a measure in a bid to cut off American military support of the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, an intervention that has created the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster. While Mr. Trump vetoed that legislation, supporters of the legislation hoped it would create a new model for curtailing presidential war powers.

In a sign that Democrats intend to make good on their vow to impose another check on Mr. Trump and his mercurial style of foreign policymaking, House Democratic leaders announced on Tuesday afternoon that the House will vote later in the month on two other measures that would further seek to shackle Mr. Trump’s war-making authority. One would repeal the 2002 authorization of military force in Iraq, and another would prohibit federal funds from being used to take military action in Iran unless explicitly approved by Congress.

“President Trump does not have a unilateral authority to take our country into war against Iran and must work with Congress to meet this challenge,” Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said in announcing the votes.

Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting.

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France, Germany and U.K. Serve Notice on Iran Under Nuclear Deal

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BRUSSELS — Britain, France and Germany triggered the dispute resolution mechanism in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday, a tough warning to Tehran and the first step toward reimposing further United Nations sanctions on Iran.

The move, which had been expected for more than a week, was delayed when the United States killed a top Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, with repercussions that are still playing out in Iran and across the region.

Triggering the dispute resolution mechanism will set the clock running on what could be some 60 days of negotiations with Iran about coming back into full compliance with the deal, and could end up with a “snapback” of United Nations sanctions on Iran, including an arms embargo.

President Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018 and has imposed several rounds of American sanctions on Iran. In response, Tehran has repeatedly moved beyond the limits that the agreement had placed on its nuclear program, raising fears that it could be close to building an atomic bomb.

The Europeans want to save the deal and persuade both Washington and Tehran to begin a new set of negotiations about missile development and Iran’s regional activities, a senior European official said.

But the three European countries, all signatories to the deal, clearly felt that they had to respond to Iran’s progressive movement away from compliance with the deal’s limits on centrifuges and uranium enrichment.

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Iran’s Grim Economy Limits Its Willingness to Confront the U.S.

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LONDON — Iran is caught in a wretched economic crisis. Jobs are scarce. Prices for food and other necessities are skyrocketing. The economy is rapidly shrinking. Iranians are increasingly disgusted.

Crippling sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have severed Iran’s access to international markets, decimating the economy, which is now contracting at an alarming 9.5 percent annual rate, the International Monetary Fund estimated. Oil exports were effectively zero in December, according to Oxford Economics, as the sanctions have prevented sales, even though smugglers have transported unknown volumes.

The bleak economy appears to be tempering the willingness of Iran to escalate hostilities with the United States, its leaders cognizant that war could profoundly worsen national fortunes. In recent months, public anger over joblessness, economic anxiety and corruption has emerged as a potentially existential threat to Iran’s hard-line regime.

Only a week ago, such sentiments had been redirected by outrage over the Trump administration’s Jan. 3 killing of Iran’s top military commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani. But protests flared anew over the weekend in Tehran, and then continued on Monday, following the government’s astonishing admission that it was — despite three days of denial — responsible for shooting down a Ukrainian jetliner.

The demonstrations were most pointedly an expression of contempt for the regime’s cover-up following its downing of the Ukrainian jet, which killed all 176 people on board. But the fury in the streets resonated as a rebuke for broader grievances — diminishing livelihoods, financial anxiety and the sense that the regime is at best impotent in the face of formidable troubles.

Inflation is running near 40 percent, assailing consumers with sharply rising prices for food and other basic necessities. More than one in four young Iranians is jobless, with college graduates especially short of work, according to the World Bank.

The missile strikes that Iran unleashed on American bases in Iraq last week in response to Gen. Suleimani’s killing appeared calibrated to enable its leaders to declare that vengeance had been secured without provoking an extreme response from President Trump, such as aerial bombing.

Hostilities with the most powerful military on earth would make life even more punishing for ordinary Iranians. It would likely weaken the currency and exacerbate inflation, while menacing what remains of national industry, eliminating jobs and reinvigorating public pressure on the leadership.

Conflict could threaten a run on domestic banks by sending more companies into distress. Iranian companies have been spared from collapse by surges of credit from banks. The government controls about 70 percent of banking assets, according to a paper by Adnan Mazarei, a former I.M.F. deputy director and now a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. Roughly half of all bank loans are in arrears, Iran’s Parliament has estimated.

Many Iranian companies depend on imported goods to make and sell products, from machinery to steel to grain. If Iran’s currency declines further, those companies would have to pay more for such goods. Banks would either have to extend more loans, or businesses would collapse, adding to the ranks of the jobless.

The central bank has been financing government spending, filling holes in a tattered budget to limit public ire over cuts. That entails printing Iranian money, adding to the strains on the currency. A war could prompt wealthier Iranians to yank assets out of the country, threatening a further decline in the currency and producing runaway inflation.

In sum, this is the unpalatable choice confronting the Iranian leadership: It can keep the economy going by continuing to steer credit to banks and industry, adding to the risks of an eventual banking disaster and hyperinflation. Or it can opt for austerity that would cause immediate public suffering, threatening more street demonstrations.

“That is the specter hanging over the Iranian economy,” Mr. Mazarei said. “The current economic situation is not sustainable.”

Though such realities appear to be limiting Iran’s appetite for escalation, some experts suggest that the regime’s hard-liners may eventually come to embrace hostilities with the United States as a means of stimulating the anemic economy.

Cut off from international investors and markets, Iran has in recent years focused on forging a so-called resistance economy in which the state has invested aggressively, subsidizing strategic industries, while seeking to substitute domestic production for imported goods.

That strategy has been inefficient, say economists, adding to the strains on Iran’s budget and the banking system, but it appears to have raised employment. Hard-liners might come see a fight with Iran’s archenemy, the United States, as an opportunity to expand the resistance economy while stoking politically useful nationalist anger.

“There will be those who will argue that we can’t sustain the current situation if we don’t have a war,” said Yassamine Mather, a political economist at the University of Oxford. “For the Iranian government, living in crisis is good. It’s always been good, because you can blame all the economic problems on sanctions, or on the foreign threat of war. In the last couple of years, Iran has looked for adventures as a way of diverting attention from economic problems.”

How ever Iran’s leaders proceed, experts assume that economic concerns will not be paramount: Iran’s leaders prioritize one goal above all others — their own survival. If confrontation with outside powers appears promising as a means of reinforcing their hold on power, the leadership may accept economic pain as a necessary cost.

“The hard-liners are willing to impoverish people to stay in power,” said Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, a research institution in London. “The Islamic Republic does not make decisions based on purely economic outcomes.”

But Iran’s leaders need only survey their own region to recognize the dangers that economic distress can pose to established powers. In recent months, Iraq and Lebanon have seen furious demonstrations fueled in part by declining living standards amid corruption and abuse of power.

As recently as November, Iran’s perilous economic state appeared to pose a foundational threat to the regime. As the government scrambled to secure cash to finance aid for the poor and the jobless, it scrapped subsidies on gasoline, sending the price of fuel soaring by as much as 200 percent. That spurred angry protests in the streets of Iranian cities, with demonstrators openly calling for the expulsion of President Hassan Rouhani.

“That’s a sign of how much pressure they are under,” said Maya Senussi, a Middle East expert at Oxford Economics in London.

In unleashing the drone strike that killed General Suleimani, Mr. Trump effectively relieved the leadership of that pressure, undercutting the force of his own sanctions, say experts.

Within Iran, the killing resounded as a breach of national sovereignty and evidence that the United States bore malevolent intent. It muted the complaints that propelled November’s demonstrations — laments over rising prices, accusations of corruption and economic malpractice amid the leadership — replacing them with mourning for a man celebrated as a national hero.

A country fraught with grievances aimed directly at its senior leaders had seemingly been united in anger at the United States.

“The killing of Suleimani represents a watershed, not only in terms of directing attention away from domestic problems, but also rallying Iranians around their flag,” said Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

Mr. Trump had supplied the Iranian leadership “time and space to change the conversation,” he added. Iranians were no longer consumed with the “misguided and failed economic policies of the Iranian regime,” but rather “the arrogant aggression of the United States against the Iranian nation.”

But then came the government’s admission that it was responsible for bringing down the Ukrainian passenger jet. Now, Iran’s leaders again find themselves on the wrong end of angry street demonstrations.

For now, the regime is seeking to quash the demonstrations with riot police and admonitions to the protesters to go home. But if public rage continues, hard-liners may resort to challenging American interests in the hopes that confrontation will force Mr. Trump to negotiate a deal toward eliminating the sanctions.

Iran may threaten the passage of ships carrying oil through the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for more than one-fifth of the world’s consumption of liquid petroleum. Disruption there would restrict the global supply oil, raising the price of the vital commodity. That could sow alarm in world markets while limiting global economic growth, potentially jeopardizing Mr. Trump’s re-election bid, as the logic goes.

Iran previously had a different pathway toward gaining relief from the sanctions: Under a 2015 deal forged by President Barack Obama, the sanctions were removed in exchange for Iran’s verified promise to dismantle large sections of its nuclear program.

But when Mr. Trump took office, he renounced that deal and resumed sanctions.

The Iranian leadership has courted European support for a resumption of the nuclear deal, seeking to exploit divergence between Europe and the United States. The Europeans have been unhappy about Mr. Trump’s renewed sanctions, which have dashed the hopes of German, French and Italian companies that had looked to Iran for expanded business opportunities.

Whatever comes next, Iran’s leadership is painfully aware that getting out from under the American sanctions is the only route to lifting its economy, say experts.

The nuclear deal was intended to give Iran’s leaders an incentive to diminish hostility as a means of seeking liberation from the sanctions. Mr. Trump’s abandonment of the deal effectively left them with only one means of pursuing that goal — confrontation.

“They see escalation as the only way to the negotiating table,” said Ms. Vakil. “They can’t capitulate and come to the negotiating table. They can’t compromise, because that would show weakness. By demonstrating that they can escalate, that they are fearless, they are trying to build leverage.”

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