The missile strike conducted by the Iranians on the United States’ bases in Iraq as retaliation against the United States for the drone airstrike on January 3 that killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, Commander of the Quds Force, may have claimed unintended victims: Pentagon and intelligence officials increasingly believe that the airliner that took off from Tehran bound for Ukraine was mistakenly shot down by a Russian-made, Iranian air defense missile. 

The Boeing 737 airliner took off shortly after the Iranians had launched several rockets at the U.S. bases. The sight of an aircraft on Iranian radars may have mistakenly been considered a hostile aircraft.

The crash killed all 176 people on board. The passengers consisted of 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, as well as 11 Ukrainians. Many of the dead were thought to be international university students returning to Canada after a holiday break. 

Recent reports state that Ukrainian investigators are awaiting permission from Iranian authorities to examine the crash site and look for evidence of what could have caused the crash, including missile fragments. However, Iran’s head of civil aviation tried to pooh-pooh that notion. He told the ISNA News Agency on Thursday that “scientifically, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane, and such rumors are illogical.”