United States-Iran tensions responsible for death of Canadians in plane crash - Justin Trudeau

The plane went down last week.
The plane went down last week. Photo credit: Getty.

Justin Trudeau says Canadian victims of the Ukrainian plane shot down near Tehran would be alive if there hadn't been heightened tensions between the United States and Iran.

The Canadian Prime Minister has promised justice and accountability after Iran admitted to shooting down Ukrainian International Airlines' flight PS752 on Wednesday last week, killing 176 - including 57 Canadians. Iran says the downing was an accident and people responsible have been arrested.

In a statement admitting the error, Iran's Armed Forces General Staff said the aircraft looked like a "hostile aircraft" during a time of heightened sensitivity. Only hours earlier Iran launched rockets at Iraqi military bases housing United States troops as retaliation to the US President Donald Trump-directed assassination of general Qassem Soleimani. Following that statement, Iran's foreign minister, Javad Zarif, said the shooting was a "human error at [a] time of crisis caused by US adventurism". 

Prime Minister Trudeau is now also blaming the tensions between Iran and the United States for the plane crash. 

"I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families," he told Canada's Global News.

"This is something that happens when you have conflict and war. Innocents bear the brunt of it. It is a reminder why all of us need to work so hard on de-escalation, on moving forward to reduce tensions and find a pathway that doesn't include further conflict and killing."

That comment has already prompted a response from members of Trump's Republican party. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said Iran was solely responsible for the plane crash when asked about Trudeau's comments. 

"There's no blame here for America. America stood up once again for freedom. Iran went past a red line they had not gone past before killing a US citizen  Iran shot down a commercial airliner there's no doubt where the blame lies," he said.

Since Iran admitted to the shooting on Saturday, Trudeau has called for a full investigation into what happened. A meeting - hosted by Canadian officials - will take place in London on Thursday for authorities to set out the next steps in getting answers.

"I think full admission, acknowledgement of responsibility and some form of compensation is going to have to come," Trudeau said. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has also called for Iran's full admission of guilt and a monetary payment.

Canadian experts have been invited by Iran to analyse the plane's black box, which Iran has so far refused to hand over.

The killing of Soleimani - who was one of Iran's most powerful figures and the head of its infamous Quds Force - in an early-January airstrike sent shockwaves across the region, with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowing revenge. 

Like other world leaders, Trudeau says he wasn't informed of the airstrike prior to it being conducted.

"The US makes its determinations, we attempt to work as an international community on big issues, but sometimes countries take actions without informing their allies."

Asked by Global News whether he would have preferred a warning, Trudeau replied: "Obviously".

Trump says his decision to order the killing was informed by intelligence which suggested Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel. However, while the President has support of his many in party, other US politicians briefed on the intelligence say it didn't specify any imminent threat. No congressional approval was requested for the assassination.

The airstrike came only days after an America contractor in Iraq was killed in a rocket attack which the US blamed on Iranian-backed militia. In response, the US killed 25 Hezbollah fighters, leading militias to attack the US Embassy in Baghdad.