Do you remember Iran Air flight number 655?
WANA (July 03) – The Iran Air Flight 655 is a flight that most Iranians have heard of, a flight number that lays heavily on the nation’s hearts.
It was on July 3, 1988, right in the midst of a war between Iraq and Iran, that a U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser called the USS Vincennes fired at the Iran Air Airbus A300B2, which was flying over the country’s territorial waters from the port city of Bandar Abbas to Dubai, carrying 274 passengers and 16 crew members.
The plane disintegrated and crashed into the Persian Gulf waters, killing all 290 on board, including 66 children.
U.S. officials claimed that the USS Vincennes had mistaken the lumbering Airbus A300 civilian airliner for a much smaller and faster F-14 fighter jet. This is while the warship was equipped with highly sophisticated radar systems at the time of the attack.
Reacting to the occasion, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kan’ani noted that the Iranian nation will never forget this horrible crime committed by the U.S.
One of the reasons Iran cannot accept that this was an “accident” is that two years later, the captain of the cruiser, William C. Rogers, was cleared of any wrongdoing and was even awarded America’s Legion of Merit medal by then-US president George Bush for his “outstanding service” during operations in the Persian Gulf.
Now fast-forward to January 2020, when the Ukrainian flight PS752 crashed after being hit by two missiles minutes after it took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, with all the 176 people on board being killed.
The incident came amid high tensions between Iran and the U.S. over the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani when Iran’s air defense was on high alert in anticipation of a potential U.S. attack. Hours before the incident, Iran had staged a missile attack against Iraqi base housing American troops in response to the U.S. drone attack that killed Iran’s top anti-terror general.
Iran said the mismanagement of an air defense unit’s radar operator was the key human error leading to the incident. A statement by the International Civil Aviation Organization also described the incident as unintentional.
The Iranian judiciary convicted ten military personnel while the country’s top security officials invited Ukraine and the U.S., which built the downed aircraft, to partake in the investigations.
However, some Western countries and media have sought to discredit Iran’s narrative of the incident, accusing Tehran of deliberately targeting the plane without offering evidence.
In a statement at the time, the Iranian foreign ministry said Iran had been transparent and accused other countries of taking advantage of this painful incident to advance their political agendas.
Last year, a Canadian court awarded $84m to the families of six killed victims. The same judge of Ontario’s Superior Court had labeled the incident an “act of terrorism” months earlier, a ruling Iran rejected as “shameful.” The Iranian government said in late 2020 that it would give $150,000 to each of the victims’ families.
“Canadian officials have had the most unwarranted interventions from day one and have tried to prevent the natural path of this issue being clarified,” an Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said.
This spiteful narrative of what the Islamic Republic admitted to and has shown its regret over the incident has caused much political controversy. Iran has been threatened with International action by countries where the victims- mostly Iranians- held their citizenships. Organizations were created claiming to seek “justice” for the killed passengers, huge amounts of money were donated, and cases have been made to go after Iranian assets abroad to obtain the so-called judgments.
Today, on the anniversary of Iran Air Flight 655, the families of those 290 people have yet to receive a simple apology from the country that orchestrated the death of their dear ones.
The stark contrast in how the International community reacted to these two barely similar incidents shows the political manipulation of some countries over worldwide responses and views towards an action.
This bitter experience helped cement a view in Iran: that the United States and its allies are absolutely committed to destroying the Islamic Republic and will stop at almost nothing to accomplish this.
WANA writer / F. Fazaeli / Jun 27, 2023