Leaked audio appears to reveal Iran’s foreign minister admitting the truth about the shooting down of a Ukrainian aircraft last year.
In the recording, someone identified as Javad Zarif says, in Farsi, that the extent of the information must never be made public, otherwise it could endanger Tehran’s air defence networks.
The person is also said to be heard saying infiltrators may have been responsible for downing of the plane, a view that seems to match his belief that “false flag” attacks could be conducted on US forces in Iraq to start a war.
A copy of the audio was obtained by the Canadian network CBC News and its sources identified the speaker as Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Canadian government sources were given a copy of the audio for further analysis.
The discussion suggests the possibility the destruction of Flight PS752 was intentional.
According to CBC sources, the person is heard saying: “These things are not going to be revealed easily” by the country’s prominent military wing, a reference to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or those higher up in the government.
On January 8, 2020, the IRGC shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 over Tehran with two surface-to-air missiles, killing all 176 people aboard, including 138 people with ties to Canada.
Iran originally denied any involvement in the aircraft’s destruction. Three days later, in the face of mounting satellite and video evidence, President Hassan Rouhani admitted its military unintentionally shot down the plane.
Iranian officials, including Mr Zarif, admitted the military mistook the jet for a hostile target in the aftermath of the US drone strike in Iraq that killed the Iranian military general Qassem Suleimani.
CBC had three people translate the recording from Farsi to English to capture nuances in the language.
The details of the conversation, and the identities of the others involved, were not released owing to concerns for their safety.
For the same reason CBC did not reveal the source of the recording.
The person in the audio identified as Mr Zarif said there were a “thousand possibilities” to explain the downing of the jet, including a deliberate attack involving two or three infiltrators, a scenario he said was “not at all unlikely”.
The voice said there were reasons they would never be revealed, and: “They won’t tell us, nor anyone else, because if they do it will open some doors into the defence systems of the country that will not be in the interest of the nation to publicly say,” they said.
They say that while Iran would deliver the aircraft’s flight recorders to France for analysis, the data recovered would not show whether someone intentionally shot at the plane.
“Even if you assume that it was an organised intentional act, they would never tell us or anyone else,” the person says. “There would have been two or three people who did this. And it’s not at all unlikely. They could have been infiltrators. There are a thousand possibilities. Maybe it was really because of the war and it was the radar.”
The person points to Russia as an example of a country that was accused of involvement in shooting down a plane, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014, but never admitted to it.
Ralph Goodale, the Canadian prime minister’s special adviser on the Flight PS752 file, said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment were evaluating the recording’s authenticity.
Mr Goodale said the audio file contains sensitive information and commenting publicly on its details could put lives at risk.
“We’re treating all the evidence and all the potential evidence with the seriousness and the gravity that it deserves,” Mr Goodale said.
“We understand in a very acute way the thirst among the families for the complete, plain, unvarnished truth and that’s what we will do our very best to get for them.”
The individual in the audio also refers more than once to compensation as a means to close the issue and says Iran wants to compensate victims’ families to prevent other countries from turning the disaster into “an international crime”.
Iran proposed compensation of $150,000 for each of the victims' families, but Canada rejected that offer. Mr Goodale said Iran has no right to offer such a payment unilaterally.