Iranian officials told the truth about the circumstances of a Ukrainian jetliner crash only after it became apparent that the evidence on the ground from the doomed flight would not allow the Iranians to continue to lie, according to a leading U.S. newspaper.
The plane crashed Wednesday, but Iran did not reveal that it had shot down the aircraft, killing all 176 on board, until Saturday.
The revelation that the government had lied for several days before revealing the truth prompted hundreds of people in several cities around the country to mount protests, calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ali Khomenei and chanting, "Down with liars" and "Death to dictator."
On Saturday, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps admitted it had mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian International Airlines flight earlier in the week.
IRGC aerospace commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh said on state television, "I take full responsibility and I will obey whatever decision is taken." He said he "wished" he "were dead" when he learned about the fate of the aircraft.
"That night we had the readiness for all-out war," Hajizadeh said. He added that the Revolutionary Guard asked that commercial fights be canceled but that the request was not granted.
A report in The New York Times says Ukrainian officials were forced into telling the truth "because the evidence of a missile strike had become overwhelmingly clear to international investigators."
A Ukrainian official told the publication that its experts had gathered information at the crash site "despite apparent Iranian efforts to complicate the investigation, including by sweeping debris into piles rather than carefully documenting it."
The downing of the UIA jetliner, a Boeing 737, happened just hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on Iraqi bases housing U.S. soldiers in response to last week's U.S. drone attack that killed Iranian Quds Force commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Ukraine says the Kyiv-bound doomed flight took off as usual with no word to the crew about the ballistic missile attack.
Oleksiy Danilov, the Ukrainian official heading the crash investigation, told The New York Times that the Iranians could no longer lie about the circumstances of the crash when "Ukrainian investigators found fragments of the top part of the airplane cabin that had been pierced by what appeared to be the shrapnel of a missile warhead."