William Cummings, USA TODAY
Published 12:37 p.m. ET Jan. 13, 2020 | Updated 1:11 p.m. ET Jan. 13, 2020
WASHINGTON – The chief executive of a Canadian company whose colleague lost his wife and son when Iran shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane last week said in a series of tweets that the real blame for the tragedy belongs to President Donald Trump.
Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods – which employs more than 12,000 people, according to its website – posted his “personal reflections” on the tensions between the U.S. and Iran from the company’s Twitter account.
“I am very angry, and time isn’t making me less angry. A MLF colleague of mine lost his wife and family this week to a needless, irresponsible series of events in Iran,” McCain said.
Protests have roiled Iran since officials admitted an air defense system incorrectly identified Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 as an incoming cruise missile and shot the jet down. All 176 people on board were killed, including 82 Iranians and 62 Canadians. Iran had denied any role in the disaster for days, initially attributing the accident to mechanical problems.
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I’m Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, and these are personal reflections. I am very angry, and time isn’t making me less angry. A MLF colleague of mine lost his wife and family this week to a needless, irresponsible series of events in Iran…
— Maple Leaf Foods (@MapleLeafFoods) January 13, 2020
Iran’s military was in a state of heightened readiness when the plane was downed, hours after the regime fired ballistic missiles at U.S. troops in Iraq in response for a drone attack that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top military and political leaders, in Baghdad.
McCain denounced Trump as “a narcissist” who “tears world accomplishments apart.” He called the downed plane “collateral damage” from the U.S. government’s “irresponsible, dangerous, ill-conceived behavior.”
“63 Canadians needlessly lost their lives in the crossfire, including the family of one of my MLF colleagues (his wife + 11 year old son)! We are mourning and I am livid,” McCain said.
McCain implied that Trump, “unconstrained by checks/balances,” “concocted” a plan to ramp tensions with Iran so he could distract from his impeachment. McCain acknowledged that “Iran is a dangerous state” but said the 2015 nuclear agreement from which Trump pulled the U.S. had been an effective attempt at containment.
He also questioned the effectiveness of killing Soleimani. “There are a hundred more like him, standing next in line,” McCain tweeted.
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Iranian officials have also said the U.S. shares blame for the disaster. Ali Rabiei, a government spokesman, said the killing of Soleimani and fears of further U.S. attacks had put the military on edge, creating the conditions that led to the downing of the Ukraine flight.
Some of Trump’s domestic political opponents have leveled similar charges at the administration.
On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier told CNN that Iran’s shootdown of the jetliner was “another example of collateral damage from the actions that have been taken in a provocative way by the president of the United States.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Saturday that Iran “must take full responsibility” for shooting down the plane.
“The reality is there have been significant tensions in that region for a long time,” Trudeau said when asked if Soleimani’s killing might have played a role in the tragedy. “Even in a moment of heightened tensions, this should never have happened.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper differed. “To somehow allow Iran to play the victim card with the international community is just ridiculous,” Esper said on ABC’ News “This Week” on Sunday. “These tensions started many years ago – 20 years ago, 40 years ago – and escalated in the past 12 months, led by the terrorist leader, Qasem Soleimani.”
Contributing: John Bacon, Michael James and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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