TASS, January 14. The skies over Iran are currently safer for all flights than ever before, Iranian Army Commander Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi said on Tuesday.
"The Iranian sky is safer for all flight than at any other point in time," the IRNA news agency reports quoting him as saying. Mousavi also noted that the Iranian leadership should call for "coordination of the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - TASS) and other armed forces to ensure accuracy of the air defense system."
The army commander is also certain that "the human error that led to the Ukrainian plane crash last week will not undermine outstanding achievements of the IRGC." Mousavi offered condolences to families of the Boeing 737 crash victims, saying, "The recent air disaster that caused deaths of our dear compatriots was bitter and sad and had a profound effect on the security and armed forces of the country." At the same time, he pointed out that the "tragedy occurred during the crisis provoked by American adventurism."
On January 8, Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 travelling from Tehran to Kiev crashed near the Iranian capital shortly after takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport. All people onboard, 167 passengers and 9 crewmembers, were killed. Most victims were Canadian and Iranian citizens. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadim Pristaiko announced on his Twitter page that citizens of Iran, Canada, Ukraine, Sweden, Afghanistan, German and the UK were among those who died in the air tragedy.
On January 11, the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces disseminated a statement admitting to mistakenly shooting down the plane. Commander of the Aerospace Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (elite forces) Amir Ali Hajizadeh revealed that the national air defense systems had mistaken the passenger aircraft for a cruise missile.
The situation around Iran exacerbated dramatically after the US launched a strike on Baghdad’s airport on January 3 killing General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force. Tehran vowed to respond harshly. On January 8, Iran retaliated by launching missile strikes on two facilities in Iraq used by US military - Al-Asad Air Base and the airport of Erbil.