Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps lied to President Hassan Rouhani by telling him they had not shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet while they scrambled to cover up the disaster, a new report claims.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the top commander of the IRGC's aerospace division, suspected that two Iranian anti-aircraft missiles had destroyed a Ukrainian Airlines passenger jet just outside of Tehran almost immediately after it happened.
In a later televised broadcast, Hajizadeh said that on the night of the disaster, he contacted the top brass of the IRGC to tell them what had happened.
He said that he admitted to them 'it's highly possible we hit our own plane,' according to a report from the New York Times published on Sunday.
On January 8, amid rising tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic, the Revolutionary Guard shot down a Ukrainian Boeing plane as it took off from Tehran, killing all 176 passengers on-board.
Due to the complex political and clerical hierarchy in Iran, the elite IRGC reports solely to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not to the country's president.
The IRGC made every effort to hide the truth from Rouhani, with the leaders ensuring the truth was kept among themselves and not learned of by anyone, the report alleges.
They set-up a top-secret committee to investigate the cause of the attack, eventually deciding that the missiles had been launched due to 'human-error'.
In the aftermath of the catastrophe, officials from Rouhani's government adamantly denied any Iranian involvement.
Ali Rabiei, the government spokesman, called international accusations a 'big lie'.
The report, which gives a day-by-day chronology of the events after the crash, alleges that by Thursday, government officials were becoming suspicious of the military's denials.
'Thursday was frantic,' Rabiei said later in a news conference. 'The government made back-to-back phone calls and contacted the armed forces asking what happened, and the answer to all the questions was that no missile had been fired.'
According to the New York Times, Rouhani attempted to contact a number of military commanders who blanked his calls.
It wasn't until Friday - two days later - that the miltary commanders called a meeting to enlighten their president of the truth.
After Rouhani discovered what had happened, he pushed for the news to be broadcast quickly, which was then resisted by IRGC leaders.
It took him threatening his resignation for them to give in, according to the New York Times.
On January 11, three days after the crash, Iran announced that they had 'regrettably' fired missiles at the jet 'due to human error' and killed '176 innocent people.'
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.