Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday January 10, 2020
As Iran and US take step back from the brink, Canada grieves
The worst had passed, it seemed, and the United States and Iran no longer appeared poised at the edge of war.
“All is well!” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday night, days after a U.S. drone strike killed Iran’s most powerful general, and Iran, after a barrage of missiles, had signaled it was stepping back from further escalation.
But 27 seconds before Trump’s tweet, commercial flight trackers had lost contact with a Ukrainian International Airlines jet that had just taken off from Tehran’s main airport. On board were 176 people, including 138 passengers on their way to Canada and at least 63 Canadian citizens and 11 Ukrainians. The plane, which never made a mayday call, slammed moments later into the ground.
Everyone on board died. They were students, newlyweds, doctors and parents. The youngest was a 1-year-old girl, Kurdia Molani, who was flying back home with her parents to the Toronto suburb of Ajax.
By late Thursday, Western leaders said that Iran had most likely shot down the jetliner with a surface-to-air missile — probably by accident. The loss of so many lives transformed the U.S.-Iran confrontation, which had seemed to conclude with limited bloodshed.
Instead, what had begun with a drone attack on Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s motorcade at the Baghdad airport had suddenly rippled outward until dozens of Iranian-Canadians, dozens of Iranian students studying in Canada, were dead.
“The community is overwhelmed with mourning and sadness,” said Payman Parseyan, a prominent Iranian-Canadian in western Canada, counting through the names of the friends he had lost. There was Pedram Mousavi and his wife Mojgan Daneshmand, both of them engineering professors, and their two daughters, Daria and Dorina Mousavi. There was Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad, an obstetrician-gynecologist, and her two daughters, Saba and Sara Saadat. It seemed impossible.
Some in Canada quickly blamed Trump for the disaster.
“This is insane. Sickening. Imagine having a family member on that plane,” said Rob Kent, a 42-year-old Toronto resident. “One man, and only one, is responsible for those deaths. And he will never face consequences for them.”
But Parseyan wasn’t so sure.
“It takes two to tango,” he said. “It’s not hard to see the downing as a result of the escalation between the two countries. However, Iran is responsible for its own military defense equipment. While it has the right to defend itself, as it should to protect its own people, it should also have the responsibility with that right to make sure their defensive systems aren’t targeting civilian aircraft.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has at times had a rocky relationship with Trump, was careful not to say the U.S. strike was responsible for what happened. (Associated Press)