The disaster occurred amid a heightened political crisis in the Persian Gulf, hours after the Iranian military launched 15 missiles towards U.S. military airbases in Iraq in response to the Baghdad International Airport airstrike which killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. In response, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in a notice to airmen (NOTAM), banned all American civil aircraft from flying over Iran, Iraq, the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. Although the FAA's NOTAM is not binding on non-U.S. airlines, many airlines take it into consideration when making safety decisions, especially after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014. Several airlines, including Austrian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, KLM, Air France, Air India, SriLankan Airlines, Qantas and Vietnam Airlines began to reroute their flights. Other airlines, such as Lufthansa, Emirates, Flydubai, and Turkish Airlines cancelled some flights to airports in Iran and Iraq and would make further operational changes as necessary.
The head of the commission for accidents in the CAOI said they received no emergency message from the aircraft before the crash. It was reported that the aircraft's black boxes (the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR)) had been recovered, but the CAOI said it was not clear to which country the recorders would be sent so the data could be analyzed. The association said it would not hand over the black boxes to Boeing or to U.S. authorities. On 9 January, the black boxes were reported, by Iranian investigators, to have been damaged and that some parts of their memory may have been lost. Mary Schiavo, a former U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general, said no automated distress messages had been sent from the aircraft or by its crew.More Info
The Iranian government initially denied responsibility for the airplane's destruction, but investigation by Western intelligence agencies and the general public revealed that the aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile launched by Iran. Mass protests calling for the removal of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei broke out in Iran on 13 January in response to the shootdown and government denial, which ultimately resulted in the Iranian government admitting that it shot down the airliner.More Info
The sustained massive street protests in Iraq that led to Abdul-Mahdi's resignation as prime minister (and temporary caretaker role) restarted in the days after the assassination of Soleimani and al-Muhandis, with a shift in the focus of protests from mostly anti-Iran to criticism of both the U.S. and Iran. The "Made in Iraq" street and online protests strengthened in Baghdad following the assassination. Major protests took place on 5 January 2020 in many cities, "Made in Iraq" protests on 7 January, and two thousand protested in Basra and Nassiriyah on 10 January, with one of the slogans being "Neither America nor Iran, our revolution is a young revolution."More Info
On 6 January, Russia and China were blamed by the U.S. because of "blocking a resolution condemning the attack on Washington's Baghdad embassy". According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, "Russia has offered Iraq their S-400 air defense system to protect their airspace". For only the second time since the start of the country's civil war nearly nine years ago, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, arrived in Syria to meet with its president, Bashar al-Assad, on 7 January. In another meeting, in Baghdad, on 6 January, Zhang Tao, the Chinese Ambassador, said to Iraq's caretaker Prime Minister al-Mahdi that "China is keen to increase security and military cooperation in Iraq."More Info
Shortly before the U.S. Department of Defense announced the strike, President Trump posted a U.S. flag on Twitter. The next morning, he held a public statement saying he had authorized the strike because Soleimani was plotting "imminent and sinister attacks" on Americans. He added, "We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war." He also said he did not seek a regime change in Iran. On 4 January, Trump tweeted that 52 Iranian targets (representing the 52 American hostages in the 1979–81 Iran hostage crisis) had been selected if Iran "strikes any Americans, or American assets". Iranian President Rouhani responded to Trump's warning: "Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290", referring to the 1988 shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655, by a U.S. warship in which 290 were killed. Among those targets were Iranian "cultural sites", and Trump subsequently insisted he would not hesitate to destroy such targets even after some said it could be considered a war crime.More Info
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