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The United States is confident that rebels attacked the airplane with an SA-11 Gadfly fired missile. A dispatch from the U.S. embassy in Ukraine indicates that the weapon was provided by Russia. Evidence suggests that the rebel forces mistook the commercial airliner for a Ukrainian military transport vehicle.
Pro-Russian forces, however, are claiming that the Ukrainian government deliberately shot down the plane.
For the United States to prove its allegations against Russia and the Ukrainian separatists, Western authorities must first gain full access to the crash site, utilize an arsenal of forensic investigative technology, then gather eye witness accounts.
Once the United States can prove its allegations, European partners can then be persuaded to impose tougher sanctions on Russia.
According to Homeland Security News Wire the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the Air Force Space Command operate a number of infrared satellites, such as the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS). Infrared satellite imagery could confirm that a missile did launch from the contested area, but the United States faces skepticism from European partners since similar technology was used to make the case for war against Saddam Hussein in 2003.