It took several days for Iran to admit that a missile had shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet leaving Tehran airport. The admission from Iran came at about the same time a video was circulating which showed a missile rising into the sky and exploding near the plane. But it turns out Iran must have known about the missile launch almost immediately because another pilot flying in the same area reported it to ground control. A transcript of the exchange between the Iranian pilot and an air-traffic controller was turned over to Ukraine. The conversation was in Farsi but this is a translation of what was said:
“A series of lights like … yes, it is a missile, is there something?” the pilot calls out to the controller.
“No, how many miles? Where?” the controller asks.
The pilot responds that he saw the light by the Payam airport, near where the Guard’s Tor M-1 anti-aircraft missile was launched from. The controller says nothing has been reported to them, but the pilot remains insistent.
“It is the light of a missile,” the pilot says.
“Don’t you see anything anymore?” the controller asks.
“Dear engineer, it was an explosion. We saw a very big light there, I don’t really know what it was,” the pilot responds.
The AP points out that Iran would have had immediate access to recordings on conversations with air traffic controllers. Not to mention that, unless the air-traffic controller who took the report is a complete idiot, he’d probably have remembered the missile report after the Ukrainian jet disappeared. Bottom line: Iran must have known within hours what had really happened but chose to lie about it for several days.
The response in Iran to the obvious fact that the government had lied about its involvement in shooting down the plane was anger. There were protests that continued for several days. But here in the US, the media seemed to mostly gloss over the fact that Iran had lied even when reporting on its belated admission of what it had done. For instance, this CNN story about the Iranian admission doesn’t mention the days of previous denials at all.
In general, the US media seemed reluctant to blame Iran for its behavior but strangely eager to dole out a share of the blame for the downed airliner to President Trump.