The latest on Iran plane crash

By Fernando Alfonso III, Veronica Rocha, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes, Tara John and Caitlin Hu, CNN

Updated 4:23 a.m. ET, January 11, 2020
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3:03 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

In 1988, a US Navy warship shot down an Iranian passenger plane in the heat of battle

From CNN's Brad Lendon

Two days before a Ukrainian passenger plane went down over Tehran in the fog of battle this week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reminded the world not to forget about something eerily similar — the shooting down of an Iran Air jetliner by a US Navy ship in 1988.

Thousands of Iranians chanting "Death to America," participate in a mass funeral for 76 people killed when the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, in Tehran, Iran, July 7, 1988. They hold aloft a drawing depicting the incident.
Thousands of Iranians chanting "Death to America," participate in a mass funeral for 76 people killed when the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655, in Tehran, Iran, July 7, 1988. They hold aloft a drawing depicting the incident. AP Photo/CP/Mohammad Sayyad

Iran Air Flight 655, an Airbus A300 with 290 people on board, was blown from the skies by a missile fired from the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes as it flew over the Persian Gulf from Iran to Dubai on July 3, 1988.

Rouhani used that 290 number in a Twitter post on January 6.

"Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655 Never threaten the Iranian nation," he said in a tweet.

Read more here

2:29 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Iran urges Chinese to visit for Lunar New Year after plane crash

From CNN's Serenitie Wang

Iran has been quick to reassure Chinese tourists that the country is safe in the wake of conflict with the US and the downing of a Ukrainian airliner over Tehran.

In a post Thursday on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Iran's embassy in Beijing wrote that "at this very moment, we feel deeply the warmth from the messages of Chinese netizens."

"We would like to say thank you! We have already slapped loudly the face of the US in response to its military adventurism. We have also maintained maximum restraint. Iran will continue to work to maintain regional peace and stability, and the lives of the Iranian people will remain calm as before. Chinese friends please rest assured and come to Iran for the Chinese New Year. Safety is not an issue.”

On the same day, the account also posted a video interviewing Chinese travelers in Persepolis -- a cultural site in Iran -- to stress that the country is still safe to visit.

Beijing is a longtime ally of Tehran's. In a call with his Iranian counterpart following the US killing of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington's action "goes against basic norms governing international relations and will aggravate tensions and turbulence in the region."

2:12 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Iran accuses US of "big lie" over cause of Ukrainian plane crash

From CNN’s Radina Gigova

Iran urged the United States on Friday to wait for the results of the investigation into the crash of a Ukrainian airliner and dismissed as "a big lie" allegations coming from US officials that missiles downed the plane, Iranian state media reported, quoting a government spokesman.

"No one will assume responsibility for such a big lie once it is known that the claim had been fraudulent," government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said in a statement, according to state-run Press TV.

"It is unfortunate that the psychological operation of the US government, and those supporting it knowingly and unknowingly, are adding insult to the injury of the bereaved families and victimizing them for certain goals by propagating such fallacies," he added.

Rabiei said according to international rules, the aviation organization of the country where the incident occurred (Iran), the aviation organization of the country that issued qualification for the flight (Ukraine), the owner of the plane (Ukraine), the factory builder of the plane (Boeing) and the factory builder of the engine of the plane (France) can take part in the investigation of the incident.

A delegation from Ukraine is already in Iran, Rabiei said. "We also welcome the participation of all countries which have lost their nationals in the mishap," he added.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Press TV on Thursday night, the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization Ali Abedzadeh also rejected as "illogical rumors" reports that the Ukrainian plane that crashed south of the capital Tehran on Wednesday was hit by missiles.

CNN reported earlier Thursday that the US increasingly believes Iran mistakenly shot down the airliner, according to multiple US officials. The working theory is based on continuing analysis of data from satellites, radar and electronic data collected routinely by US military and intelligence.

2:28 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

How Pompeo convinced Trump to kill Soleimani and fulfilled a decade-long goal

From CNN's Nicole Gaouette and Jamie Gangel

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for a briefing with members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the situation with Iran, at the U.S. Capitol on January 8.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives for a briefing with members of the U.S. House of Representatives about the situation with Iran, at the U.S. Capitol on January 8. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was a driving force behind President Donald Trump's decision to kill a top Iranian general, sources inside and around the administration tell CNN, a high-stakes move that demonstrates Pompeo's status as the most influential national security official in the Trump administration. 

Taking Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani "off the battlefield" has been a goal for the top US diplomat for a decade, several sources told CNN.

Targeting Iran's second most powerful official -- the leader of the Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, the politically and economically powerful military group with regional clout -- was Pompeo's idea, according to a source from his inner circle. That source said the secretary brought the suggestion to Trump. Pompeo "was the one who made the case to take out Soleimani, it was him absolutely," this source said.

Read more here

2:32 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Australian PM says Iran plane crash "not an intentional act"

From CNN's Akshanka Sharma

ABC via Reuters
ABC via Reuters

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday the downing of a Ukrainian plane in Tehran "does not suggest an intentional act."

His comments come after multiple US officials have said the US increasingly believes that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner on Wednesday.

"Australia has received similar intelligence to that which has been spoken to by both the Prime Minister of Canada and from the United States," Morrison told reporters in Canberra.

"It is just a terrible, terrible event and we'll provide whatever support we can."

The Australian Prime Minister also called for a probe into the disaster, saying "it is absolutely critical that full and transparent investigation is undertaken into this terrible event and that would include undertaking all efforts to ensure we get recovery of the black box recorder that can obviously inform that investigation."

Australia’s flag carrier, Qantas, said earlier this week it is "adjusting its flight paths over the Middle East to avoid the airspace over Iraq and Iran until further notice."

1:02 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

In the US, the House passed a resolution to limit military action against Iran

From CNN's Clare Foran, Haley Byrd an Holmes Lybrand

House TV
House TV

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted to approve a resolution aimed at restraining the President's ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval, amid simmering tensions between the US and the country.

The vote was 224-194. Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Francis Rooney of Florida crossed party lines to vote in favor while Democratic Reps. Max Rose of New York, Ben McAdams of Utah, Anthony Brindisi of New York, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma and Stephanie Murphy of Florida voted against the resolution.

Now that the resolution has passed the House it will next go to the Senate.

What you need to know about the resolution: The structure of the House resolution is unique, however, calling into question whether it is actually legally binding. It was introduced as a concurrent resolution, a type of resolution often used for "sense of Congress" bills. They don't go to the President for a signature, and they aren't legally binding.

But House Democrats are arguing that concurrent resolutions under the War Powers Act are a special case, and they are legally binding. Republicans, however, say the resolution is not binding. 

Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a former CIA analyst and freshman Democrat, is the sponsor of the resolution, which calls on the President "to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces to engage in hostilities in or against Iran" unless Congress declares war or enacts "specific statutory authorization."

1:12 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Get caught up: What you need to know about the ongoing Iran-US tension

People participate in a protest in Times Square against military conflict with Iran on Jan. 8 in New York City.
People participate in a protest in Times Square against military conflict with Iran on Jan. 8 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The US increasingly believes that Iran mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian airliner, according to multiple US officials. CNN is told this could be a fog of war incident, and Iran may have believed it was under attack.

Here's a quick recap of the US-Iran crisis that has increased tensions in the Middle East:

  • Dec. 27: A rocket attack believed to be linked to a Shiite militia group, backed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, killed a US civilian contractor and wounded several US and Iraq military personnel on a base near Kirkuk, Iraq.
  • Dec. 29: According to the Pentagon, US forces conducted airstrikes at five facilities in Iraq and Syria controlled by a Shiite military group known as Kataib Hezbollah — the group that American officials blamed for the attack on a base near Kirkuk.
  • Dec. 31: Pro-Iranian protesters, demonstrating against the American airstrikes, attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad, scaling walls and forcing the gates open.
  • Friday: Iran's top general, Qasem Soleimani, is killed by an airstrike in Iraq, which was ordered by President Donald Trump. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the airstrikes disrupted an "imminent attack" in the region that put American lives at risk. After the strike, the US announced it will deploy thousands of additional troops to the Middle East.
  • Sunday: The military adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader said his country's retaliation to the killing will certainly be a military response "against military sites."
  • Wednesday: In the early hours of Wednesday local time, Iranian ballistic missiles struck two bases housing US forces in Iraq. Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Tehran "concluded proportionate measures in self-defense." In a statement Wednesday, Trump said the strikes appeared to be the extent of Iran's actions and pledged more US sanctions on Tehran, signaling a scaling down of tensions -- at least for the moment.
  • Thursday: The House of Representatives approved the Iran War Powers resolution with a vote of 224 to 194.The resolution is aimed at restraining the President’s ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval. During a press conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadian officials have intelligence from their own sources and Canada's allies that shows Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752 was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

12:25 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

"I hope the US doesn't make another mistake," Iran's Rouhani tells Qatar deputy PM

From CNN's Artemis Moshtaghian and Arezou Ighani

In a Thursday phone call between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Qatar's deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, the two discussed military action and US involvement in the region, according to a statement from Iran’s Foreign Ministry. 

According to the statement, Rouhani told Al-Thani that if the US responds to Iran’s recent military actions, they will receive a bigger and more dangerous response.

"I hope the US which is known to always make political mistakes, doesn't make another one," Rouhani said.

Rouhani also said that the US killing of General Qasem Soleimani was an unforgivable crime and that “for the safety of Iran, and bringing back peace to Middle East, it’s very important to stop the foreigners from interfering in our politics.”

According to the statement, Al-Thani said, "we are against any further tensions towards Iran."

12:21 a.m. ET, January 10, 2020

Video appears to show a missile hitting an object in the sky over Tehran

Two frames from a video sent to CNN that appears to show a missile fired into the Tehran sky early Wednesday morning and striking an object in the sky.
Two frames from a video sent to CNN that appears to show a missile fired into the Tehran sky early Wednesday morning and striking an object in the sky. Obtained by Nariman Gharib

Video sent to CNN appears to show a missile fired into the Tehran sky early Wednesday morning and striking an object in the sky. Around that time, a Ukranian airliner crashed shortly after takeoff.

CNN cannot verify the authenticity of the video, but the buildings seen in it appear similar to ones that are in the Iranian capitol suburb of Parand. The Ukrainian plane crashed just north of the suburb.

The video, obtained by Nariman Gharib who then sent it to CNN and the New York Times, shows a light in the sky, moving left to right and then exploding. 

CNN has asked Gharib for more information of who took the video and how he obtained it, but has not yet received a response.

The US increasingly believes that Iran mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner on Tuesday, according to multiple US officials. The working theory is based on continuing analysis of data from satellites, radar and electronic data collected routinely by US military and intelligence.

The flight was downed following Iranian strikes on US forces in Iraq.

The Ukrainian jetliner that crashed Wednesday was shot down by two Russian-made surface-to-air missiles (SA-15), according to a US official familiar with the intelligence. The US saw Iranian radar signals lock onto the jetliner, before it was shot down.