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Iranian commander bragged of having power to shoot down planes in 2016

Iranian Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh. (Mahmood Hossein/Tasnim News Agency/Released)
January 13, 2020

The commander of the Aerospace Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh took responsibility for the missile fire that brought down a Ukrainian commercial airliner. He had previously boasted of his unit’s unilateral authority to fire missiles.

Hajizadeh, who commands most of Iran’s missile arsenal, bragged of his missile launch authority in the immediate aftermath of Iran’s missile strikes on U.S. positions in Iraq last Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal. He had also previously boasted of downing a U.S. drone flying near Iran in June of last year.

Hajizadeh appeared to make similar boasts about the authority of not only him, but the personnel under his command in a 2016 interview translated by the Washington Free Beacon.

In the video, Hajizadeh reportedly claimed even the most junior officers in his command had the authorization to launch missiles.

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“Ahead of time, scenarios have been planned and units have been given the authorization,” Hajizadeh said in remarks translated for the Washington Free Beacon by an independent translator. “Look, when it comes to the shooting of defensive missiles, if an enemy aircraft is incoming, why would we be asking permission from someone? It’s possible that a sub-commander is manning the system I tell him and he shoots and hits [the target].”

“A while ago when we hit the Zionist regime’s Hermès system at Natanz, it’s not that they asked me or the general staff or the defense commander for permission,” Hajizadeh continued in his 2016 remarks. “The officer manning the system saw, assessed, and struck. It’s the same situation with the surface-to-surface missiles. It’s not like an order is issued—the officers start the initial operation but any continuation and the policy planning would be done by the senior commanders. But the initial operation, the reaction, would be done immediately.”

On Saturday, Iran admitted to firing the missiles that it mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian airliner and killed all those aboard, including 82 Iranian passengers. Hajizadeh also came forward Saturday to claim specific responsibility for the mistake.

“When I became sure that the news was true I wished for death,” Hajizadeh said.

He continued, “All other organizations including the airport and civil aviation did their job correctly. All the blame is on us.”

Hajizadeh said he had informed his superiors of the Wednesday airliner crash nearly immediately after he learned of the mistake. The Iranian government maintained its denials of the mistake for several days.

Many demonstrators took to the streets in Iran, in protest of the missile strike that brought down the airliner. Many Iranians reportedly credited Hajizadeh for his admission, despite anger at the Iranian government for the apparent coverup.