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Friday, July 18, 2014

Who brought down the Malaysian plane?

The rumor mill sets in and mainstream media already knows whom to blame

For Russia and the rebels in Eastern Ukraine, this could not have come at any worse time: the tragic crash of the Malaysian Airlines plane purportedly caused by a missile strike appears to have hit the crux of the ongoing geopolitical tussle.

As was the case with the Sarin gas attack in Syria, the fingers are being already pointed to the culprits of choice: the pro-Russian rebels and even Kremlin itself.

While it is too early to place blame on any side and to give a clean chit to others, a major media war has already started with most of the western media already passing the conditional verdict with 'According to American officials...'.

New York Times summary of the events tells it all about their position on the issue:

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 with 298 people aboard was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, American officials said. The furiously unfolding investigation is centering on Ukrainian separatists or Russian troops as the missile operators.

Along the same vein,  Washington Post writes:
  A suspected Russian-made surface-to-air missile downed a Malaysia Airlines jet in a separatist-controlled corner of eastern Ukraine on Thursday, prompting the Ukrainian government to denounce an “act of terror” that killed all 298 people on board.
But in this nuanced statement, BBC begs to differ: 

Peter Felsted, the editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, said sophisticated weaponry would have been needed to take down a flight traveling at an altitude of 10,000m (33,000ft).

He told the BBC: "Those kind of systems are obviously in the Ukrainian inventory as much as the Russian inventory, but I would say it's much less likely that the Ukrainian rebels who would have had control of one of these systems."(emphasis added).
 Most objective of the many analyses to come so far; however, has been from the blogger and military analyst with the pseudonym of The Saker. Here is what he writes in his blog under the title of 'A word of caution about premature conclusions'

I am very sorry to have to tell you all that it is too early to conclude that the Novorussian forces did not shoot down the Malaysian airliners. Though most Novorussian air defense systems are man-portable, the Resistance forces did get their hands on some 9K37 Buk missile systems which are quite capable of hitting a civilian airliner at normal cruising speed and altitude.

I am not, repeat, NOT saying that the Novorussians did it. Furthermore, at least one Russian military expert, Igor Korochenko, has declared that the Ukrainian side had officially declared that the Ukrainian soldiers had managed to disable these systems before they fell into the Novorussian hands. But even that is hardly proof of anything. First, I have seen no such Ukrainian official statement. Second, the Ukrainians soldiers could have lied to cover their collective read ends. Third, the Novorusssians could have fixed these systems. So unless the Novorussians have some solid proof that their Buks were inoperable, they have to be included in a list of possible suspects.

There are already speculations about a false flag, about Ukie military aircraft seen flying next to the Malaysian aircraft, even about some parachutes seen near the place were the plane was shot down. I have even seen some speculations about Putin's official aircraft looking like the Malaysian one and that this could have been an attempt to shoot it down. Clearly the rumor mill is blasting at full power.

Still, the Ukies have already immensely benefited from this incident: now that all the media is completely focused on what happened to this Malaysian airliner, nobody is informed of the catastrophic failure of Poroshenko "surprise" offensive. Right there we already have the first cui bono going to the junta. Second, since no matter what happened the western regimes and media will blame the Russians for this incident, the Ukies will use it in their propaganda campaign (they apparently have already asked NATO for "help" whatever that means). So that is a second cui bono for the junta. As for the Novorussians and Russia, this incident is really the last thing they need.

For whatever it's worth, and without wanting to give anybody false hopes, I personally think that it is extremely unlikely that the Russians did it because they have a fully integrated, multi layered, advance air defense systems staffed only by specialists. In contrast, the Ukies have an old, decrepit, non-integrated air defense "system" staffed by underpaid, demoralized and poorly trained conscripts. And since the Kremlin likes to maintain the illusion that it does not control the Novorussians, even if there is proof that the latter are responsible for this catastrophe, this will not directly implicate Russia (which would have been the worst option). I hope that the Russians will be able to prove that the Novorussians did not do it by, for example, finding key parts of the missile(s) which hit MH17 or by showing all the Resistance missiles "unshot", right there in the hangars were they were found.

Another thing which has not been done is a careful calculation of the exact flight envelope of the missiles in Novorussian hands. In the real world, you cannot just say that a missile can shoot a target going at speed X and altitude Y. You need to calculate an exact flight envelope and compare it against the exact flight characteristics of the target supposedly hit. In other words, until somebody makes such an analysis, there is no proof that the Novorussian Buks could have shot down this aircraft.

Then, let's see what the black boxes show. Apparently, those were found by the good guys and sent to Moscow. Also, the Russian Air Defenses have the exact flight parameters of the Malaysian aircraft and of any missile(s) which could have hit him. If the Ukies did it, chances are pretty good that the Russians will be able to prove it. Alas, if the Novorussians did it, the Russians will probably also provide the evidence as covering up for it would be foolish.

For the time being, let's not run after each rumor and let's just wait for 48 hours or so, when at least we will have some facts to look at. And let's pray that this was not a mistake by the Novorussians.

The Saker
 Let's hope the facts, however ugly and loathsome, come out to dispel all sorts of rumors that are intended to capitalize on the tragic loss of so many lives in the disaster.

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