The Iranian navy launches a missile during a military drill in the Gulf of Oman. Photo: Iranian navy

The shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet on January 8 has placed the Iranian government at odds with the global community. Domestically, it has also ignited a push against the regime. It was indeed a very bad mistake in which 176 lives were lost needlessly.

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first implicated the Iranians for shooting down the aircraft the day after the incident, most level-headed individuals were inclined to see it as another blame game between the superpowers.

Within hours, when the US validated Trudeau’s allegation, some critics even lambasted President Donald Trump for engineering another dangerous plot against the Iranians after having killed General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, just six days earlier.

Here lies the ambiguity: How did the Canadian and US intelligence agencies knew with such precision and accuracy that it was the Iranians who had shot down the Ukrainian airline with a TOR-M1 missile, as reported by The New York Times, when aviation experts across the world are still clueless about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370?

Obviously, the US is not as weak as it wants the world to believe whenever it is in confrontation with China over 5G (fifth-generation telecom) technology. This raises the question as to whether there could be another more sinister plot behind this tragic incident.

Technology is the ‘new opium’

There was a time when technologies were aggregated into common protocols so that manufacturers and developers across the world could develop, share and gain from a globally accepted standard within the concept of a free market. But as the Americans started exploiting every conceivable technology to undermine the territorial and cyber security of nations that were at odds with them, other power blocs started to develop their own global navigation positioning systems (GNSS) and infrastructure to reduce the risks of such interference. It does not pay to be overly reliant on the US these days.

The loss of reasonable control over their own territorial and cyber security, and the exploitation of personal data of their citizens, is forcing many the leaders of these economies to take a firmer stance against the US. At the economic level, they know too well that such unrestrained currency outflows for any one-sided technology consumption would ultimately bring their economies to their knees.

The Russians have their GLONASS, the Chinese their BeiDou Navigation System (BDS), the European Union is working on Galileo, while the Japanese are augmenting their Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS). Even India has the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS). All these economies are no longer overly reliant on the US for their military or technological security.

These regional navigation systems are now utilizing autonomous geo-spatial positioning with global coverage and are not limited to the six orbital planes of the standard Global Positioning System (GPS). GNSS-compatible equipment can transcend both the GNSS and GPS networks and has an accuracy of just a few millimeters.

This partly explains why the US is taking its battle on 5G technology with the Chinese so seriously. As a faltering global leader, the Americans do not take it kindly when China tries to snatch a lunch right from under their nose. As such, the US-China trade war goes beyond economics and ideology. It is about global domination across every conceivable technology that consumers and governments worldwide are addicted to these days.

Metaphorically, technology is the new opium that rakes in money, power and control. Take a look at the way consumers across the world are utilizing technologies. From smartphones to mobile apps, from cloud-computing to cybersecurity, trillions of dollars are being spent by consumers and their governments. The Americans were laughing their way to the bank until the Chinese came along and upset their game.

As greed has no boundary or limit, every challenger or opposition to the consumption of this “new opium” means a loss in revenue, power and control for the US and its preferred allies. Sharing the spoils with others is looking like an inconceivable option for them at this stage.

To call the tension between the US and China a trade war undermines this greater reality. From unilateral sanctions to outright destruction of economies, it is starting to look as if the US is using technology to regain global domination at all costs.

Unexplained flight discrepancies

As more data are being released, there are already some glaring discrepancies that baffle even aviation experts. When the doomed Ukrainian airliner, Flight PS752, switched from Tehran Iman Khomeini International Airport to Mehrabad air traffic control at 2,400 meters, at a position about 20 kilometers from the airport, it lost contact, just minutes before it was shot down. Flight-path records show that the aircraft was making a turn back in the direction of the airport.

Concurrently as this was taking place, the Iranians were firing missiles at Iraqi bases that house US forces in retaliation for the killing of their general.

If the US has the intelligence to pinpoint with such accuracy what was happening to PS752 while its troops were being fired upon, it raises the question as to whether the US has managed to circumvent the Iranians’ GPS used for the rocket attacks on their troops and inadvertently set the missiles on a wrong course.

While the Iranians may have the capability to jam or spoof territorial intrusions like in 2011, when they managed to override an American RQ-170 stealth drone and landed it on their territory, it does not have the capability to shield its GPS fully from the US.

Even the Israelis, known for their military strength, do not have the capability to shield their GPS fully from foreign interference. Last June, the Israel Defense Forces suffered such a disruption. They attributed it to the Russians using a combination of jamming and spoofing signal. Known as “smart jamming,” this is used to deter drones and incursion risks over very specific airspace. This disruption was detected by the GRID (GNSS Radio Frequency Interference Detection) receiver on the International Space Station owned by the Naval Research Lab, Cornell University, the University of Texas and Aerospace Corp.

Such jamming and spoofing can create hazards for civilian and commercial navigation. It can also block military-grade equipment, as shown by the Russians in 2018 when they disrupted US drones operating in Syria to gather intelligence.

Should the Iranians’ GPS be compromised by the US, all its rocket launches will be misguided by false data. Whether the US could deploy such a ruthless tactic against the Iranians begs greater scrutiny by the international community, as this unfortunate incident has just too many coincidences.

When framed across the other unknown technologies that are powering the complex avionics on the Boeing 737-800, the US-China trade war and why so many economies are investing big monies in building their own GNSS, there is just a remote possibility that something sinister may be at play.

When we examine the final seconds of the Ukrainian PS752 based on known data at this stage of the investigation, it resembles the final seconds of MH370, just before it disappeared from the radar and remains unaccounted for to this day. Could it be just another aviation coincidence?

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