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Recent Events That Increased Tensions Between The U.S. And Iran


Well, this has been nothing short of an extraordinary week in Iran. Last Friday, the country woke up to news a revered general had been killed by the U.S. Iran retaliated by firing missiles at Iraqi military bases that house U.S. service members. And that same night missiles were launched, a Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed minutes after taking off in Tehran. The co-host of All Things Considered, Mary Louise Kelly, has been reporting from Iran's capital all week and joins me now. Hi, Mary Louise.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, BYLINE: Good morning, David.

GREENE: Can we start with this plane crash? I mean, 176 dead, 63 Canadian citizens among those killed. Both the U.S. and Canada officials in both countries now saying they think the plane was brought down by an Iranian missile. What is the response from Iran that you're hearing?

KELLY: Well, I will say that is very much not the account being circulated here, David. This is this awful story, of course. And I sat down yesterday with a government spokesman and adviser to the president of Iran, President Rouhani. This is a man named Ali Rabiei. And I asked him the central question - is it possible that Iran accidentally took down this plane? Here's his answer.


ALI RABIEI: (Through interpreter) No, that's impossible. We are at a point that satellite images can read our plate numbers. So if there was a missile hitting a plane, the footage would have been available.

KELLY: So, David, he's saying it's impossible. He said, clearly, this was an accident. This all will become clearer. We're not trying to hide anything. And because that is the government version of events, that is the version of events airing in almost every media outlet here in Iran, which means that is the version - that this was not a missile but some kind of mechanical problem with the plane, that is the version that Iranians are hearing.

GREENE: Well, how are Iranians feeling in general, as you talked to them? I mean, we're about - what? - one week now since General Soleimani was assassinated in that drone strike ordered by President Trump. What's the feeling there?

KELLY: Exactly one week since Iran woke up to hear that their most celebrated general had been shot by a U.S. drone and killed. Yeah, we went out this morning to Friday prayers, the annual - the weekly Friday gathering. It's Imam Khomeini Musalla, which is this huge prayer complex. And this morning, there were just scores of people - men and women, children, families - all coming in for the sermon. I spoke to one woman who said she tries to come every Friday, but this Friday, she said, I feel so much emotion. She said, I needed this.

It has just been such an intense week here between from - when Soleimani was shot, exactly - was killed by this drone exactly a week ago, to the stampede that killed dozens of people at his funeral, to the missile attacks that Iran launched on military bases in Iraq and then this plane crash. And everyone we speak to here - whether it's a government official or, you know, I was at a beauty parlor in Tehran yesterday trying to get a sense of how women here are making sense of events - and everyone just keeps saying, what are we going to wake up to tomorrow?

It has been one thing after another. People here are just wrung out.

GREENE: As you wrap up this week, I mean, what are you reflecting on, thinking about as an American journalist who's been reporting on all this from Iran?

KELLY: Yeah, it's been an extraordinary week to be here, needless to say. We have moved around pretty much unhindered. We have not gotten in everywhere we wanted. We were not allowed to go into the Friday prayers this morning, despite having all of the official documents stamped, sealed by the official ministry. We were told no Americans. But no one has insulted us. No one has hassled us - on the contrary. People were lining up outside the Musalla, outside Friday prayers today to talk to us once they saw these are two non-Iranian women out there trying to ask questions. They want Americans to know what's on their mind.

So I guess my takeaway is I can't wait to come back. I had a story list a mile long of things I wanted to report on here, none of which had to do with missile attacks or planes. So I can't wait to come back and tell some more stories.

GREENE: Well, I hope you get back soon. NPR's Mary Louise Kelly. Thanks so much for everything this week.

KELLY: Thanks, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.