Reporter's Notebook: Tensions in Iran and the future of the regime

Reporter's Notebook: Tensions in Iran
Reporter's Notebook: Tensions in Iran 03:10

CBS News senior foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer has been reporting from Tehran all week. Saturday, she and her team were unexpectedly asked to leave by the Iranian authorities and they have now left Iran.

Before they left, Palmer filed this reporter's notebook — a view from inside Iran in the days after the killing of military leader Qassem Soleimani and Iran's response.

This week ended with the unthinkable. Iran admitted to shooting down a passenger plane with 176 on board.

It began with the unknowable, what Iran would do to avenge the killing — by America — of its most revered military hero Qassem Soleimani.

In all my years of covering Iran, I've never seen such high-stakes drama. Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister, warned the U.S. revenge was coming "in a clear and proportionate way."

They chose that very night. Iranian missiles fell on two U.S. bases in Iraq. The world held its breath. But with no casualties — America held its fire.

And the two old enemies appeared to call it a draw. Ordinary Tehranis — heading out in the first real snowfall of the season — called it a relief.

But another bombshell was about to burst. On Wednesday morning, wreckage and bodies from Ukrainian Airlines crash lay strewn in pieces across Iran's western suburbs.

By Friday — when we managed to reach the crash site — there was little left, even for the scavengers.

Amid rumors of a cover-up, world leaders called for an international investigation and the victims' families prayed for answers to soothe the grief.

The answer came suddenly, in a stunning TV address that said Iran's army had shot the plane down by mistake.

It was a huge admission for this proud and prickly country. Which may have appeased critics outside Iran but has inflamed them at home. Protests erupted in Tehran last night, crowds of students who despise the government for its corruption and ineptitude.

Iran starts next week — not at war with the U.S., but with itself.

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."