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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps"

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 

Iran Cracks Down as Protests Over Downing of Airliner Grow

A top Iranian military commander made a rare public appeal for forgiveness on Sunday as security forces fired on protesters and outrage over the mistaken downing of a jetliner reignited opposition on the streets and stirred dissent within the government’s conservative base.

It was the second day of protests after the military acknowledged early Saturday that it had launched the missiles that brought down a Ukraine International Airlines jet near the Iranian capital on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board. The disaster unfolded amid escalating tensions with the United States over the killing of a revered Iranian commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

For the first three days after the crash, Iran denied growing international accusations that it had shot the plane down, and looked as if it was engaged in a cover-up. The Iranian authorities insisted that the jetliner had gone down for mechanical reasons, and refused to cooperate with investigators. They also began to remove some evidence from the scene.

But then, as the uproar mounted, Iranian leaders admitted that they had shot the aircraft down, citing human error.

That admission limited the blowback from abroad — but threw a match on the volatile situation at home. Anti-government protests that had quieted when General Suleimani was killed in a drone strike in Iraq rekindled across the country.

Still, analysts argued that this latest wave of internal unrest could ultimately strengthen those in Iran who are pressing to confront the United States. Already, they were seeking to blame Washington for the protests.

On Sunday, the unrest spread outside Tehran, the capital, to at least a dozen cities. Security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and eventually live ammunition to disperse demonstrators in Tehran. By late Sunday night, several people had been wounded, witnesses said.

Unlike previous waves of opposition, some of the outrage this time has come from conservatives who ordinarily support the government, as well as from the usual critics.

Headlines in hard-line newspaper demanded resignations, and the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Hossein Salami, issued a very rare public apology. In a televised address, he all but begged Iranians to return to the nationalist zeal that only days earlier had seemed to fill the country, after General Suleimani’s killing.

Iran responded to his death by firing missiles at bases in Iraq where American forces were stationed. “We achieved a great victory,” General Salami said, though the missile barrage injured no one and did little serious damage. “But the crash of the airplane has tarnished it.”

He said he wished he, too, had “crashed and burned” on the jet.

Video

Westlake Legal Group merlin_166953561_06e1cc97-db54-4a54-a482-c464887a1919-videoSixteenByNine3000 Iran Cracks Down as Protests Over Downing of Airliner Grow Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters

Iranians have taken to the streets in protest after the government admitted, following 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

The editor in chief of the Revolutionary Guard’s Tasnim news agency, Kian Abdollahi, said that attempts by government officials to lie about what had happened were as great a “catastrophe” as the crash itself.

“Officials who misled the media are guilty too,” he said on Twitter. “We are all ashamed before the people.”

Analysts say the uproar, however, is unlikely to dampen the Iranian appetite for confrontation with the West.

Iranian hard-liners habitually suspect that American covert operations are behind domestic protests, and the unvarnished pleasure the White House seemed to take in the events unfolding in Iran over the weekend may only harden that view, analysts said.

“We are following your protests closely and are inspired by your courage,” President Trump tweeted on Sunday.

Ali Vaez, Iran project director at the International Crisis Group, said that even as they took tough measures to suppress protests at home, Iranian leaders might lash out against Washington, covertly or otherwise.

“They believe that the U.S. and its allies in the region are fueling and exploiting internal discontent in Iran,” he said. “The game will return to Iran’s comfort zone: indirect attacks against the United States and its allies in ways that would allow plausible deniability and minimal risks of reprisal.”

Over the last year, the Trump administration has hit Iran with a so-called “maximum pressure campaign” of painful economic sanctions aimed at pressuring Tehran to submit to new restrictions on its military activities and nuclear program. Iranian officials describe it as economic warfare.

If hawks in Washington view the protests as evidence of success, that could work against Iranians who favor compromise with the United States — and strengthen hard-liners who favor confrontation, said Sanam Vakil, a scholar at Chatham House.

“Security-focused conservatives are thinking they can’t come to the table now because it would be weak,” she said.

General Salami of the Revolutionary Guards, in his apology and plea for unity on Sunday, appeared eager to rally Iranians once again against their perennial rival since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“We are at war with the United States,” he said. “We do not consider the conflict with the United States over. We are the soldiers of the people, and we will sacrifice ourselves for you.”

“Iran has risen,” he said, noting that its military had dared fire missiles toward American forces on bases in Iraq — even if it did so without much chance of damage or casualties. “Iran is proud and the whole world has seen our power.”

By acknowledging belatedly that Iran’s own military had brought down the jet, Iranian leaders avoided the prospect of greater international isolation. European and other governments that had sought to trade with Iran or mediate its dispute with Washington had all begun to cite evidence that Iranian forces shot down the plane.

Canada, the final destination of most passengers on the downed jet, lost 57 citizens. At a memorial event on Sunday at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the crash “truly a Canadian tragedy.”

“I want to assure all families and all Canadians: We will not rest until there are answers,” he said. “We will not rest until there is justice and accountability.”

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said Sunday that two of its air accident investigators had obtained visas from Iran and would arrive in Tehran on Monday. It said two experts in downloading and analyzing flight data and voice recorder information would follow.

In Tehran, the scale of the domestic backlash may have caught the government by surprise.

Uniformed members of the security forces and pro-government militia men were deployed in large numbers in cities around the country, apparently in an unsuccessful effort to discourage a second day of protests.

By the end of the night, at least several people had been shot in the back by security forces, according to witnesses and videos. Several protesters in Tehran said in interviews that a circle of militiamen had closed in and beaten them.

“The city is a security zone and special forces units are at every square,” Siamak Ghasemi, an economist living in Tehran, wrote on his Instagram page. The wrong group, he said, was being punished: “It’s as if civilians had brought down a military plane.”

Despite the heavy security presence, large crowds turned out. In many places, they chanted caustic slogans. Some denounced the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which is a capital offense in Iran.

“The supreme leader is a murderer; his regime is obsolete,” demonstrators chanted in Azadi Square in Tehran.

“Our enemy is right here,” others chanted in a video circulating on social media. “They lie to us that it’s America.”

The protests in several cities were centered at universities and dominated by students, perhaps because many of those killed in the plane crash were recent graduates heading for further study in Canada.

“They killed our geniuses and replaced them with clerics,” young men and women chanted in the city of Shiraz.

Dozens of prominent film directors, artists and performers issued statements condemning the government’s handling of the crash and pulling their work from a prestigious competition.

“We are not citizens,” Iran’s best-known actress, Taraneh Alidoosti, wrote on her Instagram page; she has six million followers. “We are hostages, millions of hostages.”

A member of the Tehran city council issued a stinging statement of resignation: “Today we are faced with systematic lies, cover-ups and lack of accountability. In the current environment I have no hope for reform.”

And the only female Iranian athlete to win an Olympic medal also chose Sunday to announce that she had defected. “I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years,” the athlete, Kimia Alizadeh, wrote on Instagram. She won a bronze medal in taekwondo in 2016.

Officials appeared to be scrambling to get behind the outpouring of public grief for those killed on the plane.

A billboard in downtown Tehran that had displayed a photo of General Suleimani was taken down. In its place was a black banner with the names of the victims and a verse about grief. In Tabriz and Tehran, some protesters could be seen tearing up photos of General Suleimani that had been hanging from poles.

Iranian media reported that local officials, prayer leaders and Revolutionary Guard commanders were visiting the families of victims to offer apologies and condolences.

Like the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guards, though, Ayatollah Khamenei did his best to shift public attention back to the conflict with the Washington.

In a meeting with the visiting emir of Qatar, according to his website, he argued that the problems of the region were created by “the United States and its friends.”

Ian Austen contributed reporting from Ottawa.

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‘I Lost My Legs’: Wounded in Iraq, He Sued Iran

MELVILLE, N.Y. — Chris Levi’s fellow soldiers were sure he was dead. The Humvee he commanded in Baghdad had been torn apart by a projectile, and so had his body. When he awoke several minutes later, he followed his training, trying to assess his injuries.

“I tried to wiggle my toes, and I couldn’t move them,” he recalled. Fearing he had been paralyzed, he reached down to feel his lower body. “It’s kind of hard to describe,” he said. “You could feel wet meat, and I knew I lost my legs.”

The device that nearly killed Mr. Levi in 2008 was an improvised bomb called an explosively formed penetrator, or E.F.P. — a weapon that blasted a teardrop-shaped slug of molten copper through the passenger door of his armored Humvee.

Though it was fired by Shiite militia members in Iraq, Mr. Levi has sought for years to hold another party responsible: Iran.

He and dozens of other soldiers injured during the Iraq war, as well as the families of hundreds of dead service members, have pursued justice in federal court. They sued Iran’s government in an effort to prove that the attacks that took their limbs and loved ones were aided by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Their fight was little noticed, with limited hope of recovering significant damages despite a ruling last year in their favor. Then another form of justice came this month, when an American missile killed the man they hold most responsible, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.

His name may not have been well known to most Americans, but the general had long been a focus of anger for many wounded veterans and families of those killed in Iraq. American officials have blamed General Suleimani for a campaign of roadside bombs and other attacks that they say killed hundreds of troops at the height of the Iraq war, which took the lives of nearly 4,500 American service members and left more than 30,000 wounded.

“He was the leader of the group that killed Dad,” Kelli Hake, whose husband died in an E.F.P. attack, recalled telling her 13-year-old son when she saw the news of General Suleimani’s death flash on television.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_166951506_24144c82-c68d-4f93-a766-de8f4f7cba00-articleLarge ‘I Lost My Legs’: Wounded in Iraq, He Sued Iran United States Defense and Military Forces Suleimani, Qassim Suits and Litigation (Civil) Quds Force Kollar-Kotelly, Colleen Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iraq War (2003-11)

Kelli Hake’s husband, Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake, was killed in Iraq in March 2008.Credit…Celeste Sloman for The New York Times

Since 2007, the United States military has said that Iran, and specifically the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, commanded by General Suleimani, provided Iraqi militias with the projectile weapons and the training needed to use them.

Last week, as White House claims that the general was killed to ward off imminent attacks on Americans were called into question, the administration sought to bolster its justification for the missile strike by also focusing on his role during the Iraq war. President Trump said in a televised statement on Wednesday that General Suleimani had “viciously wounded and murdered thousands of U.S. troops.”

The claim that Iran was partly responsible for losses in Iraq is at the heart of the lawsuit filed in February 2016 by more than 300 wounded veterans or relatives of dead service members.

The plaintiffs say the attacks at issue all had something in common: specialized weaponry or other materials or support provided by Iran. Primarily, that meant components for E.F.P. weapons, one of the most lethal devices wielded against Americans during the war. Using an explosive charge to launch a dense metal projectile at several times of the speed of sound, they could punch through the armor of almost any military vehicle.

Ms. Hake said she was skeptical when lawyers first approached her about the lawsuit. Although she might never see much money, she said she decided to join as a way to bring attention to Iran’s role in the attacks on her husband and others.

“I want it to be out there and known,” she said. Her son, Gage, was a toddler in March 2008 when his father, Staff Sgt. Christopher Hake, was killed by an E.F.P. that pierced the fuel tank of a Bradley fighting vehicle, setting it ablaze.

Ms. Hake remembers feeling grateful that her son was too young to remember his father’s death, but also devastated that he would not remember his life. The death of General Suleimani brought some of those emotions back, she said, but it also gave her a feeling of relief.

“It’s not that he physically killed Chris himself,” she said, “but he was the one who put those motions into action.”

So far, the case has focused on six specific E.F.P. strikes that killed and maimed troops, including Mr. Levi and Sergeant Hake, in Baghdad between 2005 and 2009, as well as a January 2007 kidnapping operation carried out by militiamen in central Iraq that resulted in the deaths of five service members.

In 2018, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of United States District Court for the District of Columbia conducted a three-day trial to closely examine who was behind the seven attacks. No one showed up from Iran to defend the case, which the plaintiffs filed under a law that allows Americans to seek damages from other countries for deaths and injuries caused by torture, terrorism and related acts.

Mr. Levi, who was a specialist in the Army, took the stand and described the day that the copper projectile tore through his Humvee, shattering his right arm and slicing his legs off above the knees. Over the next two years, he endured more than 100 operations at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where doctors fitted him for prosthetic legs and used a metal plate and screws to hold his arm and hand together.

Now, when he wants to play with his two small dogs, Marley and Remy, or when he expects a visit from his young nieces, Mr. Levi straps on a shorter set of prosthetics that give him a low center of gravity. “I love being able to throw those ‘feet’ on and be the same height as my nieces,” he said.

He also wears them when he hikes or wades into the ocean near his home on Long Island, which was built by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and is filled with amenities to help him live independently.

At the trial, Mr. Levi often engaged in what the judge described as “gallows levity.” But he sometimes broke down while listening to testimony about the deaths of other soldiers, including Sergeant Hake.

“I couldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t leave,” Mr. Levi said, adding that it was important for the world to know what happened to them, and who was responsible. “It’s something other people needed to hear,” he said.

He added, “I’m lucky I only lost limbs.”

In August, in an initial ruling for the plaintiffs, Judge Kollar-Kotelly said that evidence gathered by United States military investigators and intelligence officials clearly showed that “material support” for the seven attacks she examined had “flowed through” General Suleimani’s Quds Force.

The general’s name appeared throughout her opinion, as she described the role he played as the head of Quds Force and the fact that he reported directly to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Now, in a new phase of the litigation, the judge is looking at evidence from more than 80 other attacks, most of them involving E.F.P.s, and will decide whether those strikes were also aided by Iran. Then a special master would recommend the amount of damages owed to each plaintiff.

There is little chance that Iran could be made to pay up directly. But plaintiffs like Mr. Levi and Ms. Hake may be able to receive money from a federal fund set up to compensate victims of state-sponsored terrorism, said their lawyer, Gary Osen.

Just how many troops were killed or wounded by Iranian-supplied weaponry during the Iraq war remains in dispute. The United States military said in 2015 that during a six-year stretch, E.F.P. attacks killed 196 American troops and wounded 861 others. More recently, the Pentagon has given an estimate of 600 American troop deaths from roadside bombs and various other attacks supported by Iran during the war.

Some experts, like Joe Cirincione, who was a longtime Democratic staff member in Congress, said evidence had never been presented to blame General Suleimani for 600 deaths or the “thousands” of casualties that Mr. Trump is now citing. But he said there was no question that Iran bears considerable responsibility.

“Can you pin every single E.F.P. attack on Suleimani? No, that’s going too far,” said Mr. Cirincione, who is now the president of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation. But, he said, “I’ve never heard anyone claim the Iranians did not supply these weapons.”

General Suleimani once sought to plead his innocence. In January 2007, the general told Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president at the time, that his hands were clean, according to an American diplomatic cable later revealed by WikiLeaks.

“I swear on the grave of Khomeini I haven’t authorized a bullet against the U.S.,” the general said.

Patrick Farr, another plaintiff in the suit, does not believe him.

Mr. Farr’s son, Clay, a soldier on his first deployment in Iraq, was injured by a roadside bomb on the day he turned 21. The next day, he called his father from a hospital bed. It was the last time they talked. A week later, he was back in the field, and an E.F.P. struck the Humvee he was driving, killing him.

“He was all I had,” Mr. Farr said in an interview from California City, Calif. On the night the missile strike killed General Suleimani, he celebrated with his wife after reading the news on his phone.

“He changed our lives forever,” Mr. Farr said, adding, “I do take comfort that the last thing he heard was the sound of a United States missile coming down on his head.”

Richard A. Oppel Jr. reported from Melville, and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs from New York. John Ismay contributed from Washington.

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Furor in Iran and Abroad After Tehran Admits Downing Ukrainian Jetliner

KYIV, Ukraine — Iran’s stunning admission that its forces errantly downed a Ukrainian jetliner — reversing three days of denial — did little to quell growing fury inside the country and beyond on Saturday as the deadly tragedy turned into a volatile political crisis for Tehran’s leaders and overshadowed their struggle with the United States.

Ukrainian officials criticized Iran’s conduct, suggesting that the Iranians would not have admitted responsibility if investigators from Ukraine had not found evidence of a missile strike in the wreckage of the crash, which killed all 176 people aboard.

Protests erupted in Tehran and other Iranian cities as dumbfounded citizens found a new reason to mistrust Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader and other officials. Protest videos even showed some shouting “Khamenei is a murderer!” and anti-riot police tear-gassing violent demonstrators.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in his first reaction to Iran’s announcement, said his country would “insist on a full admission of guilt” by Tehran.

Contradictions and miscues complicated Iran’s message even as it took responsibility for the disaster. Iran’s military, in its initial admission early Saturday, said the flight’s crew had taken a sharp, unexpected turn that brought it near a sensitive military base — an assertion that was immediately disputed by the Ukrainians.

Hours later, an Iranian commander who accepted full responsibility for the disaster agreed that the Ukrainians were right.

“The plane was flying in its normal direction without any error and everybody was doing their job correctly,” said the commander, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who leads the airspace unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — a powerful, hard-line military force. “If there was a mistake, it was made by one of our members.”

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Westlake Legal Group xxivid-iran-plane-2-square640 Furor in Iran and Abroad After Tehran Admits Downing Ukrainian Jetliner Zarif, Mohammad Javad United States International Relations Rouhani, Hassan Politics and Government Missiles and Missile Defense Systems Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Deaths (Fatalities) Aviation Accidents, Safety and Disasters Airlines and Airplanes

The New York Times has obtained and verified video showing the moment a Ukrainian airliner was hit in Iran.CreditCredit…Screenshot from video

The Ukrainians further accused Iran of having recklessly permitted commercial flights during a security emergency and of having violated universally accepted procedures for a post-crash investigation. Bulldozers had heaped debris from the plane into piles on the ground.

“Everything was done absolutely inappropriately,” Oleksiy Danilov, the Ukrainian security official overseeing the crash inquiry, said in an interview with The New York Times, referring to how Iranian authorities had handled the site of the crash.

Within Iran, citizens vented anger toward their government in the first hours after the admission and President Hassan Rouhani called the error an “unforgivable mistake.” General Hajizadeh, whose forces were responsible, said he had wished death upon himself because of the blunder.

“Death to liars!” and “Death to the dictator!” shouted Iranians gathered in squares in the capital Tehran, videos shared on social media showed. “You have no shame!” shouted several young men, and the crowd joined in a chorus.

Iranians who only a few days earlier were united in outraged grief over the American killing of a storied Revolutionary Guards leader, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, were now once again out en masse protesting their government.

Many carried candles and placed flowers at the gates of the universities and other public places in Tehran. Conservatives and supporters of the government accused the authorities of having intentionally misled the public initially about what had brought down the plane. Its passengers included many young Iranians on their way to Canada for graduate study.

The criticism of Iran over the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a Boeing 737-800, now threatens to eclipse whatever international sympathy Iran has garnered in its escalating confrontation with the Trump administration, which has faced widespread criticism over stoking a violent confrontation with Iran’s leaders.

The plane went down in fiery destruction just a few minutes after having departed Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport Wednesday morning, only hours after Iranian military forces had fired a barrage of missiles at bases in Iraq housing American troops in retaliation for the killing of General Suleimani by a United States military drone in Baghdad on Jan. 3.

Iran’s aerial defense forces, worried about possible American reprisals for the missile attack, were on alert — even though commercial aviation in Iran was allowed to proceed normally.

For three days after the crash, Iranian officials not only denied their military forces were responsible but blamed what they called the aircraft’s mechanical problems and said suggestions of Iranian culpability were American propaganda. Satellite surveillance and video clips of the plane strongly suggested Iran’s own air defense missile system blasted the plane out of the sky.

The Iranians reversed themselves early Saturday.

The newly critical language by Ukrainian officials in the aftermath of Iran’s admission stood in sharp contrast to more cautious statements in recent days. It partly reflected the frustrations in a country that had been thrust in the middle of the conflict between the United States and Iran.

The Trump administration made no immediate comment on Iran’s admission of responsibility.

Mr. Danilov, the Ukrainian security official, said Iran had been forced into conceding its military had brought down the jet because the evidence of a missile strike had become overwhelmingly clear to international investigators.

He said Ukrainian experts on the ground in Iran had gathered such evidence since their arrival on Thursday despite apparent Iranian efforts to complicate the investigation, including by sweeping debris into piles rather than carefully documenting it.

“When a catastrophe happens, everything is supposed to stay in its place,” he said. “Every element is described, every element is photographed, every element is fixed in terms of its location and coordinates. To our great regret, this was not done.”

Mr. Zelensky’s office posted on Facebook photos of plane wreckage and a Canadian man’s passport showing small piercings — consistent with the hypothesis that shrapnel from a surface-to-air missile hit the plane.

“We expect Iran to assure its readiness for a full and open investigation, to bring those responsible to justice, to return the bodies of the victims, to pay compensation, and to make official apologies through diplomatic channels,” Mr. Zelensky said in a post on his Facebook page. “We hope that the investigation will continue without artificial delays and obstacles.”

The official reaction from Iran was a mix of contrition and suggestions that the tragedy should be viewed as a consequence of American hostility.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote that “Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster.”

Mr. Rouhani, in a statement cited by the Fars News Agency, offered condolences to the victims’ families and said that “the terrible catastrophe should be thoroughly investigated.”

The Iranian expressions of remorse were met with frustration by Ukrainian aviation officials who had been struggling since the crash to get meaningful information from Iran about what had actually happened.

“Even in the statement of Iran there is a hint that our crew was acting independently, or that it could have acted differently,” said the airline director, Yevhenii Dykhne.

The crew received no warning before leaving Tehran, the Ukrainian officials said. The plane took off as Ukrainian flights from Iran had dozens of times before, and followed the same departure routes as other airliners leaving that morning, Ihor Sosnovsky, the vice president for flight operations, told journalists.

“There was no deviation from any routes that some are hinting at,” he said.

The crew maintained normal radio contact with the tower in Tehran, he said, and followed a standard departure procedure for the airport. After having reached an elevation of 6,000 feet, they were instructed to make a slight northerly turn. In the last communication, he said, one of the pilots read back this instruction from the tower, saying “turn and climb.”

Addressing criticism that the airline should not have sent a plane to Iran at all, in light of tensions in the region, the airline officials said it was Iran’s responsibility to close airspace if it had intended to fire missiles.

Mr. Danilov said Iran had no choice but to admit to shooting down the plane because the facts had become apparent to Ukrainian experts on the ground and to the international community.

The “cherry on top” in Ukraine’s probe, he said, came on Friday evening Iran time, when Ukrainian investigators found fragments of the top part of the airplane cabin that had been pierced by what appeared to be the shrapnel of a missile warhead.

“As we saw it, Iran had to face the reality that there’s no way they’ll get out of this,” Mr. Danilov said.

In the hours immediately after the crash, Mr. Danilov said, Iran was resistant to letting Ukraine conduct its own investigation. He said the possibility that international aviation authorities might shut down passenger flights to Tehran also placed enormous pressure on Iran.

“They said: ‘Sorry, this was a technical error, either due to the pilots or the technical condition of the airplane.’ We said: ‘Let us have a look.’ They said: ‘We won’t let you,’” Mr. Danilov said. “It took rather concerted efforts of our diplomats and our consul working there in order to make sure everything went well for our specialists.”

Mr. Zelensky spoke by phone to President Emmanuel Macron of France, and both agreed that French specialists would help decode the plane’s black box flight recorders.

Mr. Hajizadeh, the Iranian official who accepted responsibility for the missile strike, said the plane had been misidentified as a cruise missile and was shot down with a short-range missile that exploded near the plane.

He said the Iranian missile operator had acted independently because of “jamming.” Asked during his address why Iranian airspace was not shut to commercial air traffic amid the attacks, Mr. Hajizadeh had no clear answer.

“I wish I was dead,” Mr. Hajizadeh was quoted as saying by local news outlets. “I accept all responsibility for this incident.”

Anton Troianovski reported from Kyiv, Ukraine, Andrew E. Kramer from Moscow, and Farnaz Fassihi from New York. Reporting was contributed by Ian Austen from Edmonton, Alberta; James Glanz, Malachy Browne and Christiaan Triebert from New York; Ivan Nechepurenko from Moscow and Lara Jakes from Washington.

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U.S. Unsuccessfully Tried Killing a Second Iranian Military Official

Westlake Legal Group 10dc-military-facebookJumbo-v2 U.S. Unsuccessfully Tried Killing a Second Iranian Military Official Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Quds Force Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Defense Department Defense and Military Forces

WASHINGTON — The American military unsuccessfully tried to kill a senior Iranian military official in Yemen on the same day a drone strike killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful commander, according to American officials.

The disclosure of a second mission indicated that the Trump administration had plans for a broader campaign than was previously known, intended to cripple Iran’s ability to carry out proxy wars in other countries. After Iran’s retaliatory missile strikes on Iraqi bases that host American troops, both Washington and Tehran appear to have stepped back from escalating the conflict further, at least for now.

The unsuccessful airstrike in Yemen was aimed at Abdul Reza Shahlai, an official with Iran’s Quds Force, a potent paramilitary organization that General Suleimani had led. Mr. Shahlai was known as a main organizer of financing for Shiite militias in the region.

President Trump approved the strike against Mr. Shahlai in the same period that he authorized the strike against General Suleimani on Jan. 3, although it was unclear if the American attack in Yemen occurred at precisely the same time.

Mr. Shahlai and General Suleimani were two of several Iranian officials the administration targeted in an effort to halt Iran-backed attacks on sites with Americans and to deter Iran from ramping up aggression in the region, American officials said.

The United States had offered a $15 million reward for information about Mr. Shahlai. The announcement of the reward accused him of involvement in attacks on American allies, including a failed 2011 plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Shahlai was based in Yemen, where Iran is supporting the Houthi rebels, who are fighting a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and that gets logistical help, intelligence and weapons from the American military and American arms makers. The attempted strike on Mr. Shahlai was first reported by The Washington Post.

On Friday, Mr. Trump expanded his description of the threat from Iran that he said prompted the strike on General Suleimani, saying Iran had planned to attack multiple embassies across the Middle East, including the American Embassy in Baghdad.

“I can reveal that I believe it probably would’ve been four embassies,” Mr. Trump told Laura Ingraham of Fox News. He provide no additional information.

But the new detail brought immediate criticism from Democrats, who have complained that the Trump administration has not shared specific, credible intelligence warning of an imminent attack.

“If there was evidence of imminent attacks on four embassies, the Administration would have said so at our Wednesday briefing,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote on Twitter. “They didn’t. So either Fox News gets higher level briefings than Congress…or…wait for it…there was no such imminent threat.”

Mr. Pompeo has said that General Suleimani had been planning an “imminent attack” against Americans, although he also told Fox News on Thursday night that “we don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where.”

Speaking on Friday at the White House, Mr. Pompeo defended the credibility of the intelligence, saying that “we had specific information on an imminent threat.”

“And those threats included attacks on U.S. embassies,” he added. “Period, full stop.”

Even so, Mr. Pompeo stopped short of repeating Mr. Trump’s comments about a specific plot against the American Embassy in Baghdad. But he also dismissed criticism from members of Congress that the administration had failed to share intelligence that backs up its case.

“I don’t know exactly which minute,” Mr. Pompeo said. “We don’t know exactly which day it would have been executed, but it was very clear: Qassim Suleimani himself was plotting a broad, large-scale attack against American interests, and those attacks were imminent.”

Asked how he defined an imminent threat, Mr. Pompeo replied: “This was going to happen. And American lives were at risk.”

A senior administration official said Friday that the intelligence showed that Mr. Suleimani was planning to have forces carry out some sort of attack in the region that would result in mass casualties of Americans, with the intent of getting the American military to withdraw from Iraq, one of his main missions. But the official provided no further details.

Some Pentagon and State Department officials have said since the killing of General Suleimani that there was nothing in intelligence that showed threats that were out of the ordinary. They said the United States was aware that General Suleimani was always capable of lethal attacks on Americans and at any given time would have various plans underway.

Administration officials say General Suleimani and the Quds Force, which is an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans, most of them soldiers who were fighting in Iraq in the mid-2000s. At the time, the Quds Force passed technology and training to Iraqi Shiite militias that allowed the militias to make powerful explosives that could penetrate armored vehicles used by the American military. They were the deadliest types of roadside bombs encountered by Americans in the war.

On Friday, Mr. Pompeo and the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, announced new sanctions on Iranian officials and on a few companies — including two in China — involved in the production and export of Iranian steel and other metals. The Trump administration had already imposed major sanctions on Iran’s metals industry after Mr. Trump’s withdrawal in 2018 from a landmark nuclear agreement with the country, so analysts said the new sanctions would have little additional effect.

The damage to Iran from the new sanctions will be negligible, said Peter Harrell, a sanctions expert at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “When it comes to putting materially more economic pressure on Iran, the Trump administration is something of a victim of its own success — and I think we are reaching the end of the road for what ‘maximum pressure’ can achieve when it comes to Iran’s economy,” Mr. Harrell said.

The successful drone strike against General Suleimani on Jan. 3 at Baghdad International Airport, which Iraqi officials say killed five Iranians and five Iraqis in a two-car convoy, and the unsuccessful attack in Yemen appeared aimed at knocking the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps back on its heels. Some senior military and intelligence officials had argued internally that significant strikes against the group would effectively damage Iran’s ability to direct its proxy forces.

But others in the Trump administration, including intelligence officials, had contended that strikes against senior commanders were risky and might have the effect of inciting a wider conflict with Iran that Mr. Trump has said he wants to avoid.

The Pentagon declined to confirm the strike attempt in Yemen. But Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, noted that Yemen was “long understood as a safe space for terrorists and other adversaries to the United States.”

Members of Congress from both parties have tried to force Mr. Trump to end American involvement in the war in Yemen, which has resulted in the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis. Last April, the president vetoed a resolution from Congress that would have forced the military to halt all aid to the Saudi-led coalition.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have been on the rise since Mr. Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

In Iraq, militias supported by Iran carried out 11 rocket attacks over two months late last year on sites with Americans, United States officials say.

One such attack on Dec. 27 resulted in the death of an American interpreter, Nawres Hamid. That then prompted the Americans to carry out airstrikes on Dec. 29 on five sites in Iraq and Syria that killed at least 25 members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia and injured 50 others, American officials said.

Two days later, members of the militia carried out a protest at the American Embassy in Baghdad, which ignited outrage in Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo.

Eileen Sullivan, Alan Rappeport and Katie Rogers contributed reporting.

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U.S. Military Unsuccessfully Targeted Second Iranian Official

Westlake Legal Group merlin_159559578_bfffc40b-fd76-47a6-9d8d-bd3eb97b649e-facebookJumbo U.S. Military Unsuccessfully Targeted Second Iranian Official Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Quds Force Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Defense Department Defense and Military Forces

WASHINGTON — The American military unsuccessfully tried to kill a senior Iranian in Yemen on the same day a drone strike took out Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, one of Iran’s most important commanders, according to American officials.

The disclosure of a second mission indicated that the Trump administration was attempting to target a larger set of Iranian military and paramilitary leaders than was previously known.

The unsuccessful airstrike in Yemen was aimed at Abdul Reza Shahlai, an official with Iran’s Quds Force, a potent paramilitary organization. He was known as a key financier for Iran’s proxy wars.

President Trump approved the strike against Mr. Shahlai at the same time as he authorized the strike against General Suleimani, although it is unclear if the American attack in Yemen occurred at precisely the same time.

Mr. Shahlai and General Suleimani were two of several officials the Trump administration considered striking in an effort to halt Iranian attacks on American embassies and to deter Iran from ramping up aggression in the region.

The Yemen strike was first reported Friday by the Washington Post.

The mission to kill Mr. Shahlai shows that the Trump administration was seeking to hit multiple officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which includes the Quds Force. Both organizations direct Iran’s proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

The successful strike in Iraq and the unsuccessful attack in Yemen were meant to knock the Guards Corps back on its heels, and some senior military and intelligence officials believed a drastic strike against the group would effectively damage Iran’s ability to direct its proxy forces.

But other officials, including intelligence officials, believed strikes against senior commanders were risky, and might have the effect of inciting the broader conflict the Trump administration said it was trying to avoid.

Members of Congress have also raised questions about intelligence the administration has used to justify the strikes on General Suleimani.

The Pentagon declined to confirm the strike. But Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, noted that Yemen “is long understood as a safe space for terrorists and other adversaries to the United States.”

The United States had offered a $15 million reward for information about Mr. Shahlai. The announcement of the reward accused him of having a long history of involvement in attacks on American allies, including a failed 2011 plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Shahlai was based in Yemen, where Iran is supporting the Houthi rebels, who are fighting forces backed by Saudi Arabia.

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Iran Offers Mixed Message after Backing Away From Conflict with U.S.

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A day after President Trump backed away from further military conflict with Iran, a commander of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps declared that Iran would soon take “harsher revenge” on the United States for a drone strike last week that killed a top Iranian general. But another Iranian military leader said his country’s missile attacks targeting Americans in Iraq this week had not been intended to kill anyone.

The remarks were just some of the mixed messages put forth by Iranian leaders on Thursday after Iranian missile strikes, which hit two military bases in Iraq housing American troops.

The slain commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, had led the Quds Force, a powerful branch of the corps, and his death reverberated across the country, prompting calls for revenge and the retaliatory strikes by Iran.

The barrage of missiles on Wednesday took no American lives, Mr. Trump said, and appeared to have inflicted little damage on air bases in Asad and Erbil that house thousands of Iraqi and American servicemen and women. And though Tehran said afterward that it had “concluded proportionate measures” to avenge the killing of General Suleimani, officials in the region cautioned that Iran might not be done maneuvering and had not abandoned its goal to drive the United States out of the Middle East.

On Thursday the commander of the Revolution Guards air force, Brig. Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, described the strikes on the bases in Iraq as just the beginning of “a major operation” against the United States, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency, but he also noted that the strikes had not aimed to kill anyone. He quickly followed up with the claim that “tens of people were killed and wounded,” a point disputed by American, Iraqi and other international accounts.

A senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, Abdollah Araghi, said on Thursday that Iran’s armed forces would “impose harsher revenge on the enemy in the near future,” according to Tasnim.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran spoke with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain on Thursday morning and warned of further action, according to the president’s office.

“If the U.S. makes another mistake, it will receive a very dangerous response,” Mr. Rouhani said, according to the statement.

The deputy general of the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Fadavi, also pledged vengeance, according to a separate report from the English-language version of Tasnim.

“This move was one of the manifestations of our capabilities,” General Fadavi said in a speech in the central province of Isfahan on Thursday. “No country has ever made such a great move against the United States as we did. We dropped dozens of missiles into the heart of the U.S. base in Iraq and they couldn’t do a damn thing.”

The new leader of the Quds Force, Ismail Qaani, a longtime deputy of General Suleimani, released a statement on Thursday outlining his own commitment to moving forward with his predecessor’s agenda in the region, according to Tasnim. General Qaani added that the ultimate goal was to drive American forces out of the region.

As the rhetoric from Iranian forces heated up, other international leaders were keen to de-escalate the situation. And many of the statements on Thursday seemed to stand in stark contrast to those made by Iranian government officials a day earlier.

The influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called on Iran-backed militia groups not to carry out further attacks, even as he stressed that Iraqis should still seek to expel foreign troops, Reuters reported.

“I call on the Iraqi factions to be deliberate, patient, and not to start military actions, and to shut down the extremist voices of some rogue elements until all political, parliamentary and international methods have been exhausted,” he was quoted as saying.

Some analysts cautioned that more military action by Iran was still a strong possibility despite the government’s vow that the retaliation had ended.

Sanam Vakil, a scholar of Iran at Chatham House, a research center in London, said the possibility of strikes remained high, noting Iran’s escalatory activities in recent months to “gain limited leverage” in the long-running dispute with the United States over punishing sanctions.

“More kinetic action and reaction is inevitable,” Ms. Vakil wrote in a series of posts on Twitter outlining her perspective.

The lack of a direct back channel between Iran and the United States to ease tensions and the stalemate over the Iran nuclear deal, which Mr. Trump abruptly pulled out of last year, are also major complicating factors.

“Without a real off ramp, low-level escalation” like missile attacks from proxy groups, cyberattacks and threats to Gulf shipping “will undoubtedly continue in the coming months if not through the US election,” she added.

Pope Francis referred to the conflict on Thursday during an annual address to ambassadors to the Vatican. He said the tensions risked “compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert.” Francis appealed to the parties to return to “dialogue and self-restraint.”

The United Nations Security Council said it would meet on Thursday, and the tensions between Iran and the United States were likely to dominate an agenda tackling international peace and security.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, the European Union’s decision-making body, said he had spoken to Iran’s president on Thursday, according to a statement, and “expressed hopes that there will be no further attempts to increase tensions in the region leading to a de-escalation of the situation.”

The statement also noted that the European Union was dedicated to preserving the 2015 nuclear agreement Iran had negotiated with the governments of the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.

In his speech on Wednesday pulling back from the brink of war, Mr. Trump appeared to open a small window for diplomacy with Iran even as he urged other countries to turn their backs on the nuclear agreement and promised further, unspecified sanctions against Iran.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, said Mr. Trump’s offer to cooperate with Iran was “unbelievable” and that negotiations between the two countries would be meaningless if the United States continued aggression against Iran. The American sanctions against Iran amounted to “economic terrorism,” he added in an interview with the Iranian state news outlet IRNA.

The United States justified the drone strike that killed General Suleimani in a letter on Wednesday to the Security Council, calling the action self-defense, according to Reuters. Under the United Nations Charter, countries are required to immediately report to the Security Council any measures taken in self-defense.

In the letter, the American ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, said the United States stood “ready to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran, with the goal of preventing further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime.”

Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting.

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

Iran Strikes Harsh Tone After U.S. Backs Off Further Conflict

Westlake Legal Group 09iran-facebookJumbo Iran Strikes Harsh Tone After U.S. Backs Off Further Conflict United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Deaths (Fatalities)

A day after President Trump backed away from further military conflict with Iran, a commander of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps declared that Iran would soon take “harsher revenge” on the United States for a drone strike last week that killed a top Iranian general.

The slain commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, had led the Quds Force, a powerful branch of the corps, and his death reverberated across the country, prompting calls for revenge and retaliatory strikes by Iran against two military bases in Iraq.

The barrage of missiles on Wednesday took no American lives, Mr. Trump said, and appeared to have inflicted little damage on air bases in Al-Asad and Erbil that house thousands of Iraqi and American servicemen and women. And though Tehran said afterward that it had “concluded proportionate measures” to avenge the killing of General Suleimani, officials in the region cautioned that Iran might not be done maneuvering and had not abandoned its goal to drive the United States out of the Middle East.

A senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, Abdollah Araghi, said on Thursday that Iran’s armed forces would “impose harsher revenge on the enemy in the near future,” according to a translated report from Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.

The deputy general of the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Fadavi, also pledged vengeance, according to a separate report from the English-language version of Tasnim.

“This move was one of the manifestations of our capabilities,” General Fadavi said in a speech in the central province of Isfahan on Thursday. “No country has ever made such a great move against the United States as we did. We dropped dozens of missiles into the heart of the U.S. base in Iraq and they couldn’t do a damn thing.”

The new leader of the Quds Force, Ismail Qaani, a longtime deputy of General Suleimani’s, released a statement on Thursday outlining his own commitment to moving forward with his predecessor’s agenda in the region, according to Tasnim. General Qaani added that the ultimate goal was to drive American forces out of the region.

As the rhetoric from Iran heated up, other international leaders were keen to de-escalate the situation.

The influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called on Iran-backed militia groups not to carry out further attacks, even as he stressed that Iraqis should still seek to expel foreign troops, Reuters reported.

“I call on the Iraqi factions to be deliberate, patient, and not to start military actions, and to shut down the extremist voices of some rogue elements until all political, parliamentary and international methods have been exhausted,” he was quoted as saying.

Pope Francis referred to the conflict on Thursday during an annual address to ambassadors to the Vatican. He said the tensions risked “compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert.” Francis appealed to the parties to return to “dialogue and self-restraint.”

The United Nations Security Council said it would meet on Thursday, and the tensions between Iran and the United States were likely to dominate an agenda tackling international peace and security.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, the European Union’s decision-making body, said he had spoken to Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, on Thursday, according to a statement, and “expressed hopes that there will be no further attempts to increase tensions in the region leading to a de-escalation of the situation.”

The statement also noted that the European Union was dedicated to preserving the 2015 nuclear agreement Iran had negotiated with the governments of the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — an agreement that Mr. Trump has denounced and abandoned.

In his speech on Wednesday pulling back from the brink of war, Mr. Trump appeared to open a small window for diplomacy with Iran even as he urged other countries to turn their backs on the nuclear agreement and promised further, unspecified sanctions against Iran.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, said Mr. Trump’s offer to cooperate with Iran was “unbelievable” and that negotiations between the two countries would be meaningless if the United States continued aggression against Iran. The American sanctions against Iran amounted to “economic terrorism,” he added in an interview with the Iranian state news outlet IRNA.

The United States justified the drone strike that killed General Suleimani in a letter on Wednesday to the Security Council, calling the action self-defense, according to Reuters. Under the United Nations Charter, countries are required to immediately report to the Security Council any measures taken in self-defense.

In the letter, the American ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, said the United States stood “ready to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran, with the goal of preventing further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime.”

Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting.

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

Iran Strikes Harsh Tone After U.S. Backs Off Further Conflict

Westlake Legal Group 09iran-facebookJumbo Iran Strikes Harsh Tone After U.S. Backs Off Further Conflict United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Suleimani, Qassim Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Iran Defense and Military Forces Deaths (Fatalities)

A day after President Trump backed away from further military conflict with Iran, a commander of the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps declared that Iran would soon take “harsher revenge” on the United States for a drone strike last week that killed a top Iranian general.

The slain commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, had led the Quds Force, a powerful branch of the corps, and his death reverberated across the country, prompting calls for revenge and retaliatory strikes by Iran against two military bases in Iraq.

The barrage of missiles on Wednesday took no American lives, Mr. Trump said, and appeared to have inflicted little damage on air bases in Al-Asad and Erbil that house thousands of Iraqi and American servicemen and women. And though Tehran said afterward that it had “concluded proportionate measures” to avenge the killing of General Suleimani, officials in the region cautioned that Iran might not be done maneuvering and had not abandoned its goal to drive the United States out of the Middle East.

A senior commander in the Revolutionary Guards, Abdollah Araghi, said on Thursday that Iran’s armed forces would “impose harsher revenge on the enemy in the near future,” according to a translated report from Iran’s Tasnim News Agency.

The deputy general of the Revolutionary Guards, Ali Fadavi, also pledged vengeance, according to a separate report from the English-language version of Tasnim.

“This move was one of the manifestations of our capabilities,” General Fadavi said in a speech in the central province of Isfahan on Thursday. “No country has ever made such a great move against the United States as we did. We dropped dozens of missiles into the heart of the U.S. base in Iraq and they couldn’t do a damn thing.”

The new leader of the Quds Force, Ismail Qaani, a longtime deputy of General Suleimani’s, released a statement on Thursday outlining his own commitment to moving forward with his predecessor’s agenda in the region, according to Tasnim. General Qaani added that the ultimate goal was to drive American forces out of the region.

As the rhetoric from Iran heated up, other international leaders were keen to de-escalate the situation.

The influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called on Iran-backed militia groups not to carry out further attacks, even as he stressed that Iraqis should still seek to expel foreign troops, Reuters reported.

“I call on the Iraqi factions to be deliberate, patient, and not to start military actions, and to shut down the extremist voices of some rogue elements until all political, parliamentary and international methods have been exhausted,” he was quoted as saying.

Pope Francis referred to the conflict on Thursday during an annual address to ambassadors to the Vatican. He said the tensions risked “compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert.” Francis appealed to the parties to return to “dialogue and self-restraint.”

The United Nations Security Council said it would meet on Thursday, and the tensions between Iran and the United States were likely to dominate an agenda tackling international peace and security.

Charles Michel, president of the European Council, the European Union’s decision-making body, said he had spoken to Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, on Thursday, according to a statement, and “expressed hopes that there will be no further attempts to increase tensions in the region leading to a de-escalation of the situation.”

The statement also noted that the European Union was dedicated to preserving the 2015 nuclear agreement Iran had negotiated with the governments of the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — an agreement that Mr. Trump has denounced and abandoned.

In his speech on Wednesday pulling back from the brink of war, Mr. Trump appeared to open a small window for diplomacy with Iran even as he urged other countries to turn their backs on the nuclear agreement and promised further, unspecified sanctions against Iran.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, said Mr. Trump’s offer to cooperate with Iran was “unbelievable” and that negotiations between the two countries would be meaningless if the United States continued aggression against Iran. The American sanctions against Iran amounted to “economic terrorism,” he added in an interview with the Iranian state news outlet IRNA.

The United States justified the drone strike that killed General Suleimani in a letter on Wednesday to the Security Council, calling the action self-defense, according to Reuters. Under the United Nations Charter, countries are required to immediately report to the Security Council any measures taken in self-defense.

In the letter, the American ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, said the United States stood “ready to engage without preconditions in serious negotiations with Iran, with the goal of preventing further endangerment of international peace and security or escalation by the Iranian regime.”

Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting.

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