January 27, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8525

Iranian IRGC-Affiliated Journalists Claim Taliban Downed U.S. Spy Plane In Afghanistan, Hinting At Iranian Involvement

January 27, 2020
Afghanistan, Iran | Special Dispatch No. 8525

In exclusive reports, Iranian journalists affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) hinted at Iranian involvement in the crash today of a U.S. Air Force plane in the Ghazni region of Afghanistan. IRGC-affiliated Iranian journalist Hossein Dalirian reported that "high-ranking CIA members" were on board the aircraft, and added that it had been struck by a shoulder-mounted "9K32 Strela-2" anti-aircraft missile.

Additionally, the headline of the January 28 issue of the Iranian regime mouthpiece Kayhan stated: " Taliban Downs American Military Plane, Dozens Of CIA Officers Went To Hell."

Kayhan headline, article, and photos on upper right. January 28, 2020.

The Taliban statement however, referred to the incident as a crash.  Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban which is currently engaged in peace talks with the U.S. in Doha, Qatar, said in a statement: "At around noon hours today [January 27, 2020], a special operations U.S. aircraft on intelligence gathering mission over Ghazni province crashed in Sado Khelo area of Deh Yak district. The aircraft was destroyed in the crash and all crew along with multiple senior CIA officials killed. It should be mentioned that a number of enemy aircraft and helicopters have been downed by mujahideen in Helmand, Balkh and other provinces of the country in recent days. The wreckage of the plane and corpses of dead are lying at the crash site."[1]

The wreckage of the plane. Taliban photo, January 27, 2020.

It should be noted that Iran fears a harsh U.S. response for any Iranian strike against Americans. and is attempting to distance itself from anti-U.S. attacks. At the same time, Iran is repeatedly declaring that it intends to deliver a powerful response to the U.S. and that its bombing of the Ain Al-Assad base in Iraq following the January 3, 2020 U.S. killing of IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani" was just the beginning.

It appears that Iran's tactic is to carry out operations against the Americans via its proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan. On January 4, 2020, a Pakistani Urdu-language daily that is considered to be close to the Taliban reported that Soleimani's killing could be avenged in Afghanistan, and that "thousands of volunteers... trained by Gen. Qassem Soleimani are present" there.[2] 

The following are reports by Iranian IRGC-affiliated journalists on the plane crash and their hints at Iranian involvement in it, and a warning to the U.S. by IRGC commander Gen. Hossein Salami that U.S. commanders are no longer safe.

Iranian Journalists Hint At Iranian Involvement In Downing U.S. Plane In Afghanistan

Hassan Soleimani, editor of the IRGC-affiliated Mashregh news website, hinted at Iranian involvement in the downing of the U.S. plane. As soon as the news broke, he tweeted: "We will attack them on the same level as they are attacking us.", January 27, 2020

Additionally, the exiled Iranian journalist Behnam Gholipour, who used to write for the IRGC-affiliated Javan daily, hinted at Iranian involvement. He stated in two tweets:

"The American Gulfstream plane was downed in Afghanistan by the Taliban. They say that intelligence officers were on board. This report has not yet been confirmed, but if it is, it is possible that the issue of Iran will also emerge in this case."

Two hours later, Gholipour tweeted: "The Taliban claims responsibility for the downing of the plane / Fars news agency. [Newly appointed IRGC Qods Force commander Esmail] Qaani has begun at his strong point – Afghanistan." Gholipour is referring to the fact that Qaani, previously Soleimani's deputy, has been in charge of the eastern front of the Iranian expansion – that is, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region – since the 1990s, and has an extensive relationship with the Taliban.

IRGC Commander Salami: The Americans Will No Longer Be Safe

Also today, IRGC commander Gen. Hossein Salami warned the U.S. that U.S. commanders were no longer safe: "The Americans, the Zionists, and others must know that if they threaten our commanders, there will be no safe place for their commanders... Our enemies must be careful what they do. If they want to continue this game, our responses will be completely different than they have been in the past, and the scope of the response will [also] be different. They will encounter very new circumstances that they will not be able to control... [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei stressed, in his orders appointing [Qods Force commander Esmail] Qaani, that the Qods Force plan now is to continue the Soleimani-era plan with greater energy..."[3]

Qods Force commander Qaani (Source: Tabnak, Iran, January 3, 2020)

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