U.S. 1988 Iran flight downing haunts relations, by Joe Gambrell

Anyone who thinks the US has always worn the white hat in its relations with Iran knows nothing of the actual history. From Joe Gambrell at dailystar.com:

Mourners tossed flowers from a helicopter and a ferry into the Arabian Gulf off the coast of Iran Tuesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Navy shooting down an Iranian commercial airline, which killed 290 people. The July 3, 1988, downing of Iran Air flight 655 by the U.S. Navy remains one of the moments the Iranian government points to in its decadeslong distrust of America. They rank it alongside the 1953 CIA-backed coup that toppled its elected prime minister and secured Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s absolute power until he abdicated the throne before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Today, as Iran grapples with America pulling out of the nuclear deal with world powers, officials linked their current woes to the 1988 disaster, insisting again that the U.S. cannot be trusted.

“This heinous crime is recorded in the memory of the great and brave people of this land and will never be forgotten,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said in a statement.

The attack on the flight followed what the U.S. Navy refers to as Operation Praying Mantis, a daylong naval battle in the Arabian Gulf between American forces and Iran during the country’s long 1980s war with Iraq. That battle came after the USS Samuel B. Robertson struck a mine that the Americans later accused Iran of laying in the shipping channels it was trying to keep open for Kuwaiti oil tankers.

After the battle, U.S. forces continued to patrol shipping channels while Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard often harassed or swarmed incoming ships with smaller vessels. That’s a tactic used even today in the narrows of the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of the world’s oil traded by sea passes.

Just after dawn on July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes sent a helicopter to hover over Iranian speedboats the Navy described as harassing commercial ships. The Iranians allegedly fired on the helicopter and the Vincennes gave chase, the Navy said. Unacknowledged for years afterward by the Navy though, the Vincennes had crossed into Iranian territorial waters in pursuit. It began firing at the Iranian ships there.

As the fighting raged, Iran Air flight 655 took off from Bandar Abbas, Iran, heading for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. The Airbus A300 began its ascent as normal, part of a twice-weekly route flown by the airline for over 20 years. The captain communicated with air traffic controllers in English, His last message was: “Thank you, good day.”

To continue reading: U.S. 1988 Iran flight downing haunts relations

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