Report: Iranian Pilot Charged in the 2003 Downing of a U.S. Plane

The U.S. government reportedly charged a former Iranian Defense Ministry pilot with the September downing of an American passenger plane, but the subsequent execution of two Iranian military officers and the jailing of a former U.S. Marine has left diplomats in Washington worried that Tehran may be conducting something of a whitewash to cover up the spy agency that was involved.

Iran is routinely accused of using the deaths of Americans to hobble the U.S.’ relationship with its local allies. One can, of course, argue that Iran regularly kills Americans, too. But even the last military photo of the two Americans was not published on the Mehr news agency until July 2016.

The closed hearing of the investigation into the incident included some previously undisclosed details about the classified operation — including the names of the accused four Iranian defendants. Prosecutors charged an Iranian Defence Ministry officer and his deputy with planning and carrying out the attack. They also charged one officer in Iran’s Intelligence Ministry with directing the operation. The SAVAK department run by a former high-ranking Iranian officer also allegedly directed the operation.


In what is a strikingly curious twist of fate, the U.S. government indicted Brig. Gen. Zamir Kabuli, an Iranian member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, with planning and carrying out the 2003 attack, according to senior officials in Tehran, the New York Times reported on Friday. Gen. Kabuli, who died last year, is in a video (below) in which he reportedly denies responsibility. Army Col. Khaled Abdollahi, a senior Iran military officer who held himself out as the incident’s leader, was charged with plotting it. Two other military officers and an Iranian drone pilot were also charged. Officials told The Times that the suspects include the pilots of the drone that struck the plane and were responsible for firing the missiles, Colonel Iraj Zakeri, who appears in the video denying responsibility, and Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Khorramabadi, who runs the “[Parastoo] Flight School,” according to the published reports. Col. Zakeri and Brig. Gen. Khorramabadi are also featured in the video, which was part of a propaganda effort by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force.

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