“I wish I were inside that plane and fell down and burned along with those loved ones instead of witnessing this tragic incident.” With these words the chief commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) expressed his profound sorrow over recent downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane over Tehran.
Major General Hossein Salami made the remarks while addressing a Sunday session of Iran’s parliament, where he said he had never felt more shame in his life.
“I swear on the life of my children that we [in the IRGC] have no other wish but to be torn into pieces for the sake of the security, welfare and peace of our people,” he said.
The Boeing 737-800, on its way to Kiev and ultimately bound for Toronto, was shot down unintentionally on January 8, hours after Iran fired missiles at two US military bases in neighboring Iraq. All the 176 people on board were killed and among them 147 were Iranians.
“After the assassination and martyrdom of our beloved commander [Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani] and his comrades [by US forces in Iraq], we found ourselves in the psychological atmosphere of an unknown war with the United States,” Major General Salami said.
The IRGC’s chief commander stressed, “There was very heavy pressure from the public for retaliation and we, like you and even more than you, were influenced by that incident.”
Salami added that Iran’s retaliatory response to the targeted killing of Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani had to be “proportionate” with the US crime, adding, “This time, we did not set our goals based on human fatalities, [because] our goal was not to kill the enemy’s soldiers and it was of no significance to us.”
Last Friday, US airstrikes assassinated Lieutenant General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), among others, after targeting their vehicles in Baghdad. The assassinations took place under the direction of US President Donald Trump, with the US Department of Defense taking responsibility for the strike.