Shooting down an airliner

It has been widely accepted that the Iranian authorities made a tragic mistake. They now confess that they wrongly thought a civil airliner with 176 people on board was an incoming cruise missile.

In a world desperate to calm tensions it is probably wise to accept the latest Iranian explanation of what happened. It is important, however, that Iran learns the lessons of this tragedy. The plane they shot down had only just taken off from their main civilian airport.  It had been given clearance by the Iranian authorities for take off, and must still have been in closely controlled airspace adjacent to the airport. Their military need to know of civilian movements from a central civil aviation hub under the control of their government. They could always instruct the airport to avoid take offs at times of high tension where and when  they might unleash missiles.

It appears that many people in Iran are now angry with their government over the delay in offering this latest explanation of the last seconds of the airliner, which in turn is reminding them  of their dislike of other features of the Iranian regime. Iran’s stance supporting various terrorist movements around the Middle East, and backing proxy wars against  Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states has led the USA to impose strong sanctions on Iran. These are gradually damaging the Iranian economy, and are forcing Iran to find sales outlets for her oil away from traditional markets in the West. Some Iranians also dislike the disregard for personal freedoms and the limited adherence to human rights.

Mr Trump clearly still does not want to go to war with Iran. Because he had signalled his wish to avoid military encounters in the Middle East he felt Iran saw this as weakness and thought they could attack the USA and her friends in the area as they chose. The President countered with an unexpected targeted attack on the high command of Iran. It was a formidable demonstration of the powers of US military technology, knowing exactly where a named individual would be and being able to kill him from a distance with no US individual needed anywhere near the scene. The Iranian government thought they saw an opportunity to speed the USA’s departure from the Middle East, hoping they could accelerate US withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

The US President hopes he has found a technological answer to so called asymmetric warfare. If Iran uses terrorist groups and informal armies to kill Americans and damage US installations, the USA will use precision to kill the leaders responsible. The danger is a possible escalation. The fact that so many Iranian people now think their government has gone too far is a better augury. Any sensible person wants peace, which means different future conduct by Iran to be matched by the USA responding favourably to such moves.

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111 Comments

  1. dixie
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Your last two paragraphs are the big, screaming message from the exercise – don’t visit suffering on the poor bloody infantry of either side, but instead go straight for the snake’s head.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      One problem is, that this took place on Iraq’s soil without the consent of Iraq.

      That has enraged that country, and the last that I heard was that all US military would be expelled from it.

      Otherwise the action has arguable strategic benefits.

      Whether they are enough to win the argument is another matter.

      • Mitchel
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        Nor did the Iranian General seek to hide his movements or whereabouts.

        The US,acting like the gangster state that it is, has said that it will effectively confiscate Iraq’s $ balances from oil sales if it is forced out of the country.

        Iran is a crucially important piece on the “chessboard” as students of geopolitics will understand and it has been the desire of first the British and then American empires to take control of it(make it a “normal” state) for the best part of 200 years years.

        • Edward2
          Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

          The EU agrees with the sanctions on Iran.
          I presume you are an EU fan,Mitchel.
          Maybe if it stopped funding terrorists attacks all over the world it might get treated a bit more like a normal nation instead of a rogue state.

        • dixie
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 6:49 am | Permalink

          @Mitchel – Such emotion – perhaps what Quillette.com has pointed out is true, that China has benefited the most from post-war contracts via it’s state run National Petroleum Company. Perhaps the situation is much more complicated than appears.

          But seriously, you call the US a gangster state while lauding the likes of Russia and China?

          • Mitchel
            Posted January 20, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

            Look at the US’s record of regime change and resource grabs since WWII.

          • dixie
            Posted January 21, 2020 at 8:21 am | Permalink

            @Mitchel, compared to the regime change and interference by Russia and China since WWII? Did you miss Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Cold War, and all the rest.

            Be all means criticise the meddling of the US politicians etc but don’t try to pretend that Russian and Chinese politicians are any better when they have been quite the opposite

      • dixie
        Posted January 19, 2020 at 6:09 am | Permalink

        I am not surprised you choose to miss the point nor that you seem to be taking a very superficial view of what is being reported as a complex situation.

        So, what is the “argument” you think the US was seeking to win through one action?

  2. Ian Wragg
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    At some point there will have to be a showdown with Iran, otherwise we are going to be nuclear blackmailed.
    Sooner rather than later.

    • Stred
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      There are the well educated Iranians like the engineers and top scientists who were killed by the missile and the revolutionary excitable types who were killed in the stampede to honour their leader and launched the missile at the airliner. The plane was only at 8000 ft altitude and could have been seen. It would have been carrying people to the West and been considered a western object full of Iranians working in the west. Any smart phone can follow the identity and position of all civilian aircraft.
      This shows that allowing religious people, who are promised a place in heaven in return for killing the other side, is not a good idea. Unfortunately, action will be necessary and soon unless the religious leaders agree to dismantle the equipment.

      • Mark
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

        I doubt that the plane was very visible until it caught fire. The moon had set. It was dark.

        • Stred
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 8:45 am | Permalink

          I live on the flight path to Heathrow and City. Planes have lights and are visible unless it is cloudy. It is possible to identify what the plane is doing by the sound of the engines. It could not have been confused with a missile unless the operator was an idiot.

          • Mark
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 11:21 am | Permalink

            The speed of sound at -1C (the temperature at the airport at the time) is about 330m per second., or about 3 seconds per km. At 19km range, the sound of the engines would take almost a minute to arrive, by which time the event was over. The range at which the aircraft was otherwise visible without headlights is perhaps not relevant when a missile operator is trying to read an analogue radar screen with cryptic Cyrillic annotations as his primary input.

          • Fred H
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

            Mark,
            You need to factor in a) recognition of data on screen for what it means b) decision as to friend or foe c) authority to fire? d) time taken to reach aircraft after firing missile e) reason for firing a second missile.
            I assume the flight was tracked, away from the airport, for several km prior to the ‘fire’ button being struck.

          • Mark
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

            Fred H

            a &b) Recognition was mistaken because the missile operators had just been told to expect cruise missiles minutes beforehand (see statement by IRGC Aerospace commander available in full with English transcript and subtitled video showing map of events at IFPnews )
            c) There was a Level 3 state declared, allowing fire at will, and although there was some attempt to secure confirmation from higher authority it did not happen due to “communication difficulties” (ibid.)
            d) 18 seconds for first missile, and 12 seconds for second one which was fired 12 seconds after the first one exploded – source: 2:03 video of the entire event from CCTV near Bidganeh e) Likely reason is that the plane maintained track and heading despite the first missile having knocked out the transponder (and possibly many other electrical systems, including navigation lights and killed the pilots with shrapnel) so it had become an unidentifiable flying object.

            Working backwards from the known point of the second missile intercept we can estimate the first one struck about a second after the last position report. If we accept that the target was identified at a range of 19km (close to the maximum range of the missile radar), that would have been about 16 seconds before the first missile was launched from the aircraft track data available from Flightradar24, during which the aircraft would have covered a little over 2km.

      • Stred
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        .. to control nuclear missiles.. is not a good idea.

    • margaret howard
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Ian Wragg

      Oh yes, like there was with Iraq, Libya and all the other countries the US has attacked in the past? Funny that none of these countries ever invaded America. The vote by our MPs for Blair and the Iraq war was a war crime and all MPs should have been sacked.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        It was a war crime in my eyes too but I would not blame all the MPs some were tricked/deceived by the Blair government lies & deceptions.

        The climate change act is an insane “crime” against the laws of physics, economics and reason,s yet nearly every MP voted for it.

      • Mitchel
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        Simon Jenkins wrote a good piece for the Guardian(don’t be put off by it being The Guardian,Jenkins is a very thoughtful writer!):”Donald Trump’s rant against Iran is the howl of a dying empire -9/1/20″

        “Donald Trump does not strut the world stage as Augustus triumphant.On Wednesday he might have commanded that”Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon….we will never let that happen”.But as he slurred at his autocue,he conveyed only ritual abuse of Iran and pleas to NATO for help,a NATO he once majestically derided.I sensed we were seeing the US’s days as world hegemon dribbling away.Even Trump’s Republican ally,Mike Lee,called the Iran briefing “the worst briefing I’ve seen-at least on a military issue-in my nine years in the Senate.”

        Incidentally, I noticed yesterday ( in the Barents Observer-a great source if you are interested in developments in the Arctic) that the US has had to withdraw its 3,000 troops from the planned NATO exercise in Norway in March because of it’s extra deployment in the Middle East -a region which,supposedly, it is withdrawing from.

        Imperial overstretch?

    • Not telling you
      Posted January 19, 2020 at 1:12 am | Permalink

      It may all ready have happened

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Indeed let us hope the Iranian Government can change it’s position so that Iran can again become the great country that it ought to be.

    When Cameron appointed (or perhaps allowed) Lord Patton to become chair of the BBC trustees it confirmed to me that Cameron was certainly not the EU sceptic, cast iron, low tax at heart Conservative he had pretended to be to get elected. No sound conservative would have appointed such a pro EU, big state, lefty.

    Boris Johnson has now engaged Mark Carney (to persuade businesses and investors to join in Britain’s efforts to cut emissions to net zero by 2050). This is surely a very, very bad sign indeed for the Boris agenda. Why one earth would you want to cut emissions to net zero? It is a hugely damaging thing to try do.

    Why also would anyone employ the proven (very expensively) wrong on almost everything, expensive, PPE graduate Mark Carney to do anything?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      Then again if you must employ someone to push something as damaging and scientifically illiterate as “net zero carbon by 2050” perhaps the more incompetent the person is the better. A very good way to cut C02, save energy and £millions too would be to cancel CO26 religious festival planned for Glasgow. Save all those air miles and stop the deluded dopes, lovvies and environmental terrorists making complete and utter fools of themselves.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        COP26 rather.

    • Nig l
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 7:37 am | Permalink

      It is of course excellent politics that Carney is involved bearing in mind his next job as Climate Change ambassador. I see Germany has made a commitment to phase out coal as is the rest of the EU and we need our representation to be of the highest order.

      As usual your reply has nothing to do with the subject in hand apart from an excuse to vent your out of date and touch views. As one of the older generation I am pleased where the world us going with its green agenda. It is unstoppable.

      As for the subject in hand. Sorry JR I do not agree re Iran’s mistake. Cruise missiles travel at 500 mph, do not have transponders, wing and tail lights nor a slow climbing trajectory in the vicinity if an airport.

      The dead people and their families deserve honesty rather than this deceitful ‘political’ view which is solely to assuage Iran’s extremists presumably to,persuade them to back off.

      • Mark
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        I think that the zero carbon nonsense will eventually be stopped by three things: its unaffordable cost, slower than alarmist trends in climate changes, and a realisation that the Chinese and others are ignoring the idea to out compete us economically and in access to resources, making our attempts to turn the tide as redundant as Canute’s The question is how much damage will we have done by the time we come to our senses. A move towards pursuing mitigation as recommended by the likes of Bjorn Lomborg would be a sensible start.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

          Indeed I hope you are right.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      I echo your first sentence, but would add that others around the world should change theirs too.

      As for your last, I’m moved to relate that one of the best engineers whom I ever met was a graduate in French, but who decided to pursue his hobby on a self-taught basis, rather than his original qualification.

      To have a good science degree is indeed conclusive proof of intellectual ability.

      However, having an arts one is not proof of the opposite.

      I’m not sure what endlessly repeating an implied fallacy proves, on the other hand.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        Would you want to fly on a aircraft or like to use large bridges designed by PPE, language, geography, sociology, law or history graduates?

        The current Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth is
        the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP (Classics and Economics Trinity Camb.) I rather like and respect (though as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond he failed to stop him doing all sorts of very damaging things). Nevertheless, I suspect he understands very little indeed about energy systems, the national grid, nuclear power, entropy, chaotic systems like climate, electricity generation, the transportation and storage of electricity or the economics of energy systems.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 8:10 am | Permalink

          If any of those arts graduates went on to get the necessary qualifications in aeronautical engineering, then I would be perfectly happy to fly in planes designed by them.

          UCL failed the entire year at that when I was there, because none of them made the absolute grade required, incidentally.

          I wonder if that still happens?

          Cummings is a history graduate, incidentally.

          • dixie
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

            Then they would be engineering graduates and probably not self-taught. Even then they would need extensive experience to achieve the necessary professional qualifications before being responsible for significant elements of a passenger aircraft design and production. At the very least they should have Chartered Engineer status. In any case, the design and construction of such vehicles is not the work of one person.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

            It is not so much about qualification as the sort of minds people have. People drawn to read jurisprudence, languages or PPE are not usually the same types as are drawn to real maths, engineering, chemistry or physics.

            True a few can be good at all of them but not very many.

      • steve
        Posted January 19, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        MiC

        ” To have a good science degree is indeed conclusive proof of intellectual ability.”

        ……trouble is they [scientists] often regard their intellect as making them superior to everyone else. Not nice people in my experience.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          Well they might not be superior in many ways but they generally are at maths, physics, engineering, energy systems, aircraft design, game theory, probability, building structures, transport systems, agriculture, material science and the likes. These thing are very important if you actually want things to work efficiently and economically.

          On balance they are rather nice people I find. Though some do not suffer fools gladly and many have been corrupted by the Climate Alarmist religion and government research funding grants.

    • Sir Joe Soap
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      If only British people became angry like the Iranians with their government allowing the NHS to shoot down accidentally so many people each week. Tragic mistakes, but also extraordinary ineptitude.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. A dire state, virtual monopoly that kills thousands.

    • ukretired123
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Exactly, Carney has damaged us so much he should be exported back to Canada if they would take him!

    • Fred H
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      and a CANADIAN – don’t we have anybody to the questionable job?

    • Andy
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Who should he have picked? Matt Ridley? Lilley? Remind us of their cvs so we can chortle.

      A better suggestion would be Greta Thunberg. A 16 year old girl who has changed the world and already beaten the rejectionist old white men.

      • Fred H
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        changed the world? – – – give me strength!

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        Peter Lilly and Matt Ridley would both be excellent choices.

      • dixie
        Posted January 19, 2020 at 7:48 am | Permalink

        The 16 year old hasn’t changed the world, she is being used as a human shield by those that would and they do not have any of our interests, not even yours or your children’s in mind.

    • Fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      I agree with your thoughts on Iran John.

      L/L On the subject of renewables the latest figures from John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation clearly shows that Scottish onshore wind farms are earning more money while switched off than they do when operating. Switching off is happening more regularly because of the amount of wind farms being allowed in Scotland. They are obsessed with wind. We lived near to a windfarm which was only allowed to operate for a fraction of the day but was paid when they were asked to switch off. Is it any wonder our electricity bills are rising and exactly what has this done for the planet apart from disturbing people living nearby, killing birds of prey and bats? One has to ask how much damage to nature are we causing in our endeavours to ‘save the planet’?

      • Stred
        Posted January 19, 2020 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        The technologically unqualified civil servant who was in charge of Scotland’s energy policy is now running the Climate Change Committee, chaired by the unqualified John Gummer, and paid £325k pa.

      • Mark
        Posted January 19, 2020 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        We are starting to see periods of negative wholesale prices when wind output is high overnight when demand is low. Renewables obligations allow wind farms to have positive revenue until the negative price is greater than the value of the RO. Those on CFDs have protection down to zero price, and for negative prices as well if the period of negative prices is only a few hours. The surplus is exported to the Continent at UK billpayer expense. These periods will become more frequent and last longer as more wind capacity comes on stream.

        A consequence is that CCGT plants have no incentive to run to provide system inertia that is essential to maintaining grid stability, increasing the risk of more blackouts like the one last August. They will need to be paid compensation to run in these circumstances, adding yet more to our bills.

        It is a perverse feature of the rigged market that there is no incentive for the highest cost wind farms to be shut in when there is surplus wind.

    • steve
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      LL

      Some things in life are useful because they’re certain to fail. Think about it.

    • Bob
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      “Boris Johnson has now engaged Mark Carney”

      Perhaps the Tory Party is still in the grips of Common Purpose.

      • UK Qanon
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        The whole governmantal system is in the grip of Common Purpose so NOTHING will change. Boris has had his ear tweeked by the Establishment and will follow the agenda.
        Carney was a gloabalist establishment plant.
        Oh how this country needs a Donald Trump to kick a–e and wake people up. Forget his public personna, he is four steps ahead of everyone.
        The world is a better place thanks to him and people ARE waking up.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

        Seems so. I hope we will be proved wrong, but no sign of any common sense emerging yet.

        They are still even dithering over the insane HS2 project. But I remain grateful to Boris for rescuing us from the 9% support (5th place) disingenuous May and saving the nation from the Corbyn/SNP trip to Venezuela.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      Lord Patten rather.

    • Iago
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      I would only employ Boris Johnson if I could be sure where he was and what he was doing at all times, moat digger perhaps or better chained galley-slave. EU galley-slave describes our own predicament with Boris up on deck.

      • Mitchel
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        A few weeks ago I caught part of the Alex Salmond show in which Peter Oborne and Lembit Opik were on the panel discussing the General Election result.I was astonished by Peter Oborne-a high tory if ever there was- admitting that he had voted for Labour because of Boris Johnson’s fundamental dishonesty and his expected betrayal of the people.I had to replay it to make sure I heard it correctly.I had been wondering why Oborne seemed to have been dropped by the Daily Mail.

  4. Lifelogic
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Lord Adonis (on Newsnight) was defending the idiotic HS2 project. When Lord Adonis takes a position one can surely be fairly certain it is wrong, foolish and expensive. He says we cannot cancel HS2 “as it would waste the £8 billion already spent”. Well is is people like Adonis who have wasted the £8 billion – this is not a rational argument for wasting another £100 billion on top of this.

    With driverless cars on their way we clearly need more road space not more trains. High speed train (needing new expensive tracks) are certainly not green nor environmental, they are inflexible, often highjacked by left wing trade unions, they have fewer stops (which makes people have to travel further to make the end connections).

    Anyways you can work on trains so what value is there is saving a few minutes (even if you actually do save give the longer connections at each end). The project is just tipping money down the drain. In many ways it does far more harm than good. A deluded, hugely expensive George Osborne vanity project – rather like Mark Carney.

    • UK Qanon
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      LL _The HS2 project is a classisc case of government burning money again. The cost for a time saving of 20 minutes over an existing journey time is unfathomable, let alone the upheavel and environmental costs, but there again I am an Engineer so what do I know. We should stop this vanity HS2 project now before we start hemorrhaging money with the GUARANTEED cost overuns. Governments wasting money is nothing new, remember the labour government wasted untold millions with the cancellation of the TSR2 (which actually flew) and then cancelled its so called replacement, the US F-111 swing wing aircraft.(which did not fly)
      Your comment regarding Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP is spot on: we do not have an Energy policy just Green Crap BS and Paris climate accord!!!!!! We need another Lord Marshall (ex CEGB) but where is he to be found in this day and age of useless BS degrees?
      Similar with all ministers though, they have not a clue about their so called ministries!!!

  5. agricola
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Iran is undoubtedly a rogue state. It has developed or been sold and given technology it does not fully understand. I doubt it is a joined up state, the civilian/religious faction supposedly in charge of government separate from the military who tend to act incompetently and out of control.

    In the circumstances it is not difficult to understand the fears in Israel and the USA that this rogue, out of control state might one day have an atomic weapon at its disposal. I can therefore understand the resolve of Israel and the USA to determine that this should never happen. It is not in their interests, nor a large faction of the Iranian population, or the rest of the civilised World. For a more comprehensive appraisal of the situation you will need to consult with Mossad, the CIA, and MI6.

    • Mitchel
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Possession of an atomic weapon is the best guarantee against regime change.You can blame the USA for that being so.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      Rogue is a relative term.

      Where the US rates alongside Iran on that scale would be a matter for informed opinion.

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

        Well.

        The BBC has long had freedom to say who are ‘rebels’ in, say… Ukraine or in the Tory party.

      • Edward2
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

        So give us your informed opinion Martin.
        Don’t be shy.

  6. Mark B
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    How was the aircraft shot down ? If it was by a surface to air missile, what kind of missile ? Who fired it ? There is the Iranian military and then there is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (if that is what they are still called).

    We must remember that the USA shot down a civilian airliner in 1988 and the Soviets in 1983. So even the most advanced nations can get it wrong. Our kind host is right in pointing out that in situations where there is high tension, civilian aircraft need to be either re-directed or, take extra precautions.

    The problems in Iran and for the Iranian government go far deeper than just sanctions. There is widespread unrest and the people are sick of their governments brutal crackdown on any form of protest. Much, as in the French protests, has not been published.

    President Trump is not the first President to use drones. President Obama used them far more than and came in for less flack for doing so. Even British Prime Ministers have used drones to carry out what is referred to as, ‘Extra Judicial Killing’.

    The issues between Iran and the other countries of the Middle East are religious. They are between Sunni and Shiia. It is nothing to do with us and, President Trump has, quite rightly, decided that America’s future lay in Asia and the Pacific. Something I think our government should be considering as we chart a new future for ourselves.

    I wish the people of Iran, and only the people, my best wishes and peace.

  7. Ian Wilson
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    There have been too many accidental destruction of airliners by missiles. Only a few countries make such missile systems and while I have no expert knowledge I would have thought they could convene an updated equivalent of the wartime Identification Friend or Foe using airliner transponders. No doubt the hardest problem is preventing an attacker masquerading as an airliner.

    The Americans themselves shot down an Iranian Airbus, and before we become holier than thou we might note the Royal Navy en route to the Falklands came within seconds of launching a missile at a Panair do Brazil Boeing 707, believing it to be an Argentine military aircraft of the same type which had been shadowing the fleet. The control centre had assured Admiral Woodward there was no chance of it being an airliner but when he asked them to extrapolate its course and found it pointed directly at Rio he aborted the firing with seconds to spare. Phew!

    • Mark
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      The first missile destroyed the aircraft transponder (and likely was responsible for killing the pilots with shrapnel – the transponder is near the nose wheel bay) turning it into an unidentifiable flying object. That may help explain why the second missile was fired 10 seconds later, as you can see in the full video of the incident. It seems likely that having turned to its normal departure heading, the pilots had engaged autopilot for the next phase of the flight.

      The time between the aircraft appearing on the missile radar and firing the first missile was quite short. If you calculate from the available evidence of the flight track and missile firings and the claim it was spotted at a range of 19km it is of the order of 16 seconds.

    • Otto
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Were the people in the control centre dismissed and dishonourably discharged at least until they could be replaced?

  8. Harka
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Your last sentence last paragraph- ‘any sensible person wants peace’ – problem is sensible persons are very scarce on the ground these days and it’s getting to be more like back to the 1930’s warm up – with political leaders throwing their toys out – putting their armies in places where they were never meant to be – and now looking for solutions by proxy wars and drone strikes – however the day is fast coming when it will be necessary for ‘boots on the ground’- and hopefully these same political leaders with their own families will be the first to sign up for after all what better place to get the best view of things than up in the front line

    • Mitchel
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Probably because the current western fiat currency system looks like it is on the road to collapse.The future will be decided by those that control key natural resources and technologies,trade routes/corridors,etc – and have the means to defend them.It will not be decided by those that have the most active printing presses.

    • dixie
      Posted January 19, 2020 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Which is one lesson from the event – political leaders who foment hatred, terrorism and conflict cannot easily hide even if they don’t sign up to be in the front lines. They can be reached without involving others.

      I suspect the people of Iran don’t have the same views as their leadership, why would anyone not want a peaceful life, and I don’t believe they, their sons and daughters nor ours should be subjected to suffering and death merely to sustain the fanatics.

  9. ukretired123
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Innocent men, women and children do not deserve to die in such an appalling ways.

    Iran has cowardly hidden its evil ways for so long with proxy wars against the West.

    The hypocrisy of this is laid bare.

    Don’t skip on your own doorstep applies.

    Also MRDA applied to the attempted cover up.

    You can fool folks most of the time, but never fool yourself. Karma seeds itself.

  10. Oggy
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Whether the shooting down of the airliner was a mistake or not is beside the point, the fact is it happened. Are we to believe that if Iran had nuclear weapons and their defences are so incompetent that they couldn’t/wouldn’t launch a nuclear attack on say Israel, if Iran mistakenly thought they were under attack.

    Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons at all costs, asking them not to is simply not good enough. Israel will never allow Iran to have nuclear weapons and a showdown between the west and Iran is almost inevitable. Preferably sooner rather than later.

  11. Kevin
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    “Any sensible person wants peace, which means different future conduct by Iran to be matched by the USA responding favourably to such moves.”

    Our country should also have the freedom to respond favourably to such moves, but since Art. 129(6) of the Withdrawal Agreement binds us to “refrain from any action likely to conflict with or impede” EU foreign policy action, it appears that we would be unable to respond favourably, should the EU take the opposite view to us.

    • glen cullen
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Not widely reported in the press

      Bot will come to light after we have signed the WA 31st Jan

  12. DOMINIC
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe Iran made a mistake but this is politics. Indeed, this is emotional, hate-filled, resentful, international politics and events can quickly spiral out of control if not contained. It does seem Iran’s been given an opportunity to step back from a course of action that it may regret

    We can only hope that in time domestic fractures bring down the Iranian regime and that this process is accelerated by proxy intervention in the same way Obama tried to usurp Assad in Syria

    As an aside. It’s refreshing that our kind host chose to address a contentious and non-financed related issue.

  13. Iain Moore
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I was quite chuffed to hear the Iranians calling ‘death to England’, at least they recognised that we exist, unlike the British establishment or BBC.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Yes, since the brexit vote people of all sorts seem to leave Scotland out of it, don’t they?

      The Iranians seem to have made the call that Scotland is aligned with the non-hostile European Union, but England with Trump’s US.

      Well, the Scots have earned a bit of peace, arguably.

      • Anonymous
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

        I’d LOVE to have a say on Scottish independence !

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          I’d like to have a say on that for Yorkshire and for Essex, personally.

      • Edward2
        Posted January 18, 2020 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

        Not very helpful for the tens of thousands of Scots living happily in England.

    • Mark
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been more pleased to hear chants of xxxx and “Bye-bye terrorists!” from protestors inside Iran, as can be found on social media. Reza Pahlavi (the son of the former Shah) gave a talk at the Hudson Institute a couple of days ago where he expressed his optimism at the prospects for regime change from within Iran. If that were to come about it would likely completely change Iranian relations with the rest of the world, defusing the nuclear problem and the sponsorship of terrorism, and opening up an end to sanctions. Perhaps that is why Trump has been particularly vocal in his support for the protestors in recent days.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      Indeed.

    • Fred H
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      so if captured our special forces should claim being Scots, Welsh or Irish?

    • Diplomacy
      Posted January 19, 2020 at 12:48 am | Permalink

      No they were just being rude to Mrs Sturgeon by ignoring her.

    • Mark B
      Posted January 19, 2020 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      Bless 🙂

      +1

  14. For whom the ding
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    The whole celebration of leaving the EU amounted to coughing up half a million quid so we could ding a bell. But we are not allowed. Not even one ding in London.Freedom!

  15. glen cullen
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    ….and maybe it wasn’t a mistake

  16. Fedupsoutherner
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Off topic. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/hydrogen-lifts-off-an-old-fuel-showing-new-promise-kc03326dj

    I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy an electric car after all.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Sounds more sensible than a battery car given current technology.

      Think of an electric car as being like a petrol one but with a very small fuel tank that only takes about 8 litres of fuel. Then it talks four hours to fill it up again while you have a good lunch. Plus the battery (fuel tank) costs a fortune, only last a few years and depreciates at about £3,000 PA. The poor range can also nearly half in low temperatures with heaters, wipers, demisters, lights on and at higher speeds. Oh and the tank slowly leaks fuel when not in use.

    • Alan Jutson
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Fedupsoutherner.

      Certainly hydrogen would make more sense if it can be put on stream quickly and the car manufacturers adopt it in a cost effective manner.

      Certainly some manufacturers are showing a developing interest, and it would save cabling up the whole country, and the Government the cost of more power stations.

    • dixie
      Posted January 19, 2020 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      You replace a currently expensive battery with an expensive fuel cell using very dangerous fuel that you would always be dependent on Shell etc supplying.

  17. Everhopeful
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Drones really do return us to the days when those responsible for war rode out first on their white chargers….rather than skulking behind the lines watching the slaughter.
    This latest tragedy reminds horribly of the incident in 1988 which has dogged international relations ever since.
    Yet another indicator of leaders’ total disregard for human life.
    And they pretend they want to save the planet!!

  18. steve
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    JR

    “It had been given clearance by the Iranian authorities for take off, and must still have been in closely controlled airspace adjacent to the airport. Their military need to know of civilian movements from a central civil aviation hub under the control of their government. They could always instruct the airport to avoid take offs at times of high tension where and when they might unleash missiles.”

    All very well and good JR, except for one thing – shepherd boys don’t make good missile battery operators.

    Fact is they shouldn’t have got their hands on complex weapons in the first place.

    And in my opinion allowing them to get their hands on a nuclear weapon is sheer stupidity. The west should seriously consider targeting Iran’s enrichment facilities.

  19. Pravda
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    The four in the leadership campaign of the Labour Party are not anything for the Tories to worry about. The careers of two were in Law in which being involved in Law no longer commands respect. The other two are non-runners.

    • Fred H
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      and the 5th ?

  20. The PrangWizard
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    But we don’t want contemporary versions of Lord Halifax in our leaders and our opinion formers.

  21. Richard1
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    It must be absolutely infuriating for leftists globally, but on one issue after another trump is right, and is doing what he said he would when he stood for election. He’s right on China – they’ve been getting away with espionage and cheating the world trading system with impunity for years. It’s very difficult to reverse that behaviour given China’s power now, but trump has at least highlighted the issue and faced up to it. Of course our govt should not allow huawei to supply the core of the 5g network here.

    Trump is right on Iran also. For 15 years or so we’ve been hearing how we need to bolster the ‘moderates’ in the Iranian govt. it is a nonsense, the moderates have got nowhere. The cleric who has ultimate power has been in office since 1989 is not remotely ‘moderates and is not subject to any democratic process or scrutiny. As trump pointed out, when $150bn or so + a cash bung of nearly $2bn was released on signing of the nuclear deal in 2015 Iran didn’t say ‘thanks’ they said ‘death to america’, and promptly used the funds for further terrorism and de-stabilisation in the Middle East.

    There are numerous other examples also – the US was our only ally to give robust support after the salisbury poisonings. Venezuela. EU protectionism. NATO defence spending imbalances. The booming US economy following the programme of tax cuts and de-regulation. Etc etc.

    He may make some disagreeable utterances and have conducted himself in the past in ways open to criticism, but it looks to me like trump will get re-elected.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      Indeed right on Climate Alarmism too.

    • dixie
      Posted January 19, 2020 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Agreed

  22. William Long
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    The reaction of the Iranian people is a real positive, but the only one to come out of this whole episode. The thought of the Iranians being in a position to make a similar error with a nuclear weapon is terrifying and well worth continuing making every effort to stop them having one. I think Mr Trump’s sort of approach is more likely to succeed in doing so than that appeasement by the European governments.

  23. formula57
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Whilst we may witness “different future conduct by Iran” it has often been astute in its conduct of foreign policy in recent years, contrasting with the mainstream media characterizations of an isolated, wild, irrational regime.

  24. Wil Pretty
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Fedupsoutherner
    Hydrogen is made from Natural Gas, why not just use the Natural Gas?
    At one time LPG was being used, however it seems to have gone out of fashion now.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      Indeed rather easier to store Natural Gas or LPG.

    • steve
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      Wil

      Only in small quantities does natural gas ‘sometimes’ contain hydrogen. Natural gas is chiefly methane.

      • Mark
        Posted January 19, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        Nevertheless the cheapest way to make hydrogen is by steam cracking methane, also giving off CO2.

        2H2O +CH4->CO2+4H2

        • steve
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

          Mark

          Not being a Chemist I wouldn’t know for sure. But Hydrogen seems like a good idea to me as it’s the most abundant element, and can be had from water.

          I seem to remember – electricity can be used to split H2O, I think ?

          I know in the US it’s popular to have a hydrogen generator in cars, I think they use stainless steel electrodes in a water reservoir & feed the hydrogen direct to the intake manifold.

          Must admit it sounds a bit dodgy though.

          • Mark
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

            Yes, you can electrolyse water to produce hydrogen and oxygen, but it’s a more expensive way of doing things because it is much less energy efficient. Even so, steam cracking methane costs energy and produces the same amount of CO2 as burning methane directly, so it is less energy efficient that burning the methane in the first place. You only do it because you want the hydrogen for chemical processes such as hydrocracking of heavier oil into lighter fractions in refineries.

  25. forthurst
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Of course the US was provided with targeting information by spies from a neighbouring regime. The US certainly possesses formidable weapons of aggression but it has not so far incorporated magic into its technology.

    The Tories have been meddling in the Middle East for several years now and can take credit for the continuation of the war in Iraq, the instigation of the war in Syria despite parliament’s decision, as well as the further unprovoked attack on Libya. I am at a loss to identify the interests of the English in any of this; perhaps JR will enlighten?

  26. John McDonald
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    If only the West was as innocent and without blame as you imply Sir John.
    We feel the right to impose democracy on what we define as a rouge state at any price to the citizens of that state.
    This shooting down of a civilian aeroplane has a very similar background to the Ukraine incident. Did the West point the finger at Ukraine for not closing the air space.
    And we must not forget the US shot down a Civilian Iranian aeroplane also.
    The US can do exactly the same thing as Russia but we do not judge on evidence just faith that we are in the right and they are in the wrong.
    The US will support a terrorist group if it suits their purpose and I guess so will the UK.
    That’s Politics, it’s OK as long as you don’t get found out and it’s to promote Democracy.

    • steve
      Posted January 18, 2020 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      John McDonald

      “Did the West point the finger at Ukraine for not closing the air space.”

      No, because the west and principally the EU seized opportunity to criticise Russia. Something stinks about that incident and still smells to this day.

      “And we must not forget the US shot down a Civilian Iranian aeroplane also.”

      ….If you mean the incident I recall, Iran attempted to radar shadow two military aircraft behind he civil passenger jet, heading straight towards the US gulf fleet. A rather stupid stunt to pull quite frankly.

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted January 19, 2020 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        The European Union has no “foreign office” nor foreign policy beyond its treaties. They are sovereign matters for member states.

        So which official or institution of it “criticised” Russia in its name?

        I think that you are confusing the European Union with the leaders of the nations acting in the latter capacity.

        • steve
          Posted January 19, 2020 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          The EU is always having a dig at President Putin.

          ” They are sovereign matters for member states.”

          ……which as we all know the EU does not recognise.

          • Martin in Cardiff
            Posted January 19, 2020 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

            Who at the European Union has done that?

            Name them, please.

  27. acorn
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    BTW JR; it appears that your Chancellor has been given the wrong script! He is talking tax increases not tax cuts! As I said previously on this site, “borrowing” for capital investment while clamping down on current spending to equal tax income; is a non-starter. New capital assets come with new operating and maintenance costs, which he won’t be able to fund if he sticks to his “new” version of neo-liberal Conservative economics.

    Additionally, he is saying that he will increase public sector net investment (PSNI) to 3% from 2% of GNI. That means an increase of £16 billion; from the current 2.25% (£47 billion net; £88 billion gross). That is just enough to pay for a third (forty miles worth) of HS2 track to Birmingham out of London.

  28. Anonymous
    Posted January 18, 2020 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately the lefty peacenicks who tell us not to interfere in the ME don’t like us fracking or using nuclear energy either.

  29. na
    Posted January 23, 2020 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Iran gave the US several hours notice and coordination before they retaliated. They didn’t want to kill US troops, just make a point.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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