Downing of IR-655 and US bloody hands

TEHRAN, Jul 03 (MNA) – On July 3, 1988, 290 people were killed in a US missile attack on an Iranian passenger flight. The western side of history has tried to sweep the tragic event under the carpet, but the Iranians will never forget.

On this day 27 years ago, 290 innocent people aboard Iran Air Flight 655 lost their lives due to what the American navy called “mistaken identity.” It was a grave error in judgment tilting toward a tantalizing sense of arrogance, aggression, dishonesty and Exceptionalism that places the value of an American life much higher than any others, least of all an Iranian.

What happened that day, July 3, 1988, has long been buried under the US brilliant cover-up attempts and their usual ‘holier-than-thou’ mindset that has easily downplayed the great scope of that disaster’s tragic dimension and unfairness for years. I do not assume that any American high school student would know what Iran Air Flight 655 was all about. I do not believe the United States would want her beloved children to know what a dirty hand the Americans have been playing against Iran for years that has turned the Islamic Republic so distrustful of them.


It was toward the end of Iraq-Iran Imposed war; a war that dragged for eight terrible years, launched by then Iraqi leader Saddam Hossein and heavily-backed by the United States, which claimed the lives of perhaps a million.

Since the outset of war until June 10, 1984, 112 Iranian vessels came under missile attack in the Persian Gulf. In January 1985, the Islamic Republic of Iran called on the Director General of the United Nations to take measures in securing the safety of its shipping lines but the attacks continued. By July 1987, almost 8.5 tons of cargo were drowned in the Persian Gulf. 41 ships were completely wrecked and more than 400 mariners were killed or injured.

Iraq was quite successful in making the war in the Persian Gulf international. Western powers headed by the United States soon gained a widespread and threatening presence on the waters and soon after, Kuwaiti oil tankers started sailing in the Persian Gulf with the US flags. The United States military aggression on Iran’s oil platforms was the Western country’s blatant interference in the region in favor of Iraq and against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

One of the awful results of the Iraqi invasion and the US interference that further aggravated the flames of war and insecurity in the Persian Gulf was the shooting down of Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655) on the orders of US Navy Commander William C. Rogers III of the USS Vincennes, a Ticonderoga class AEGIS guided missile cruiser, which had begun trolling the Persian Gulf in May of that year.

The Iranian Airbus A300B2 with 274 passengers and 16 crew had taken off from nearby Bandar Abbas International Airport, bound for Dubai on the route A-5a. The airbus airliner was ascending through 12,000 feet at a speed of approximately 380 knots and reached 13,500 feet by the time the two surface-to-air missiles knocked it out of the sky, killing all 290 civilians on board, including 66 children under the age of 12 and 38 non-Iranians.  

Following this brazen aggression, the Islamic Republic of Iran addressed the president of the UN Security Council in a letter on July 5, 1988 to form an urgent session to investigate the issue. The Security Council held a meeting on July 16, attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and the Vice President George H. W. Bush (later President of the United States). During the session, Ali Akbar Velayati censured the military presence of the United States in the Persian Gulf as a “harbinger of death, lawlessness and wickedness,” adding “the US crime of attacking Iran’s passenger flight is by no means justifiable as a legitimate self-defense.” George H. W. Bush, at the time Vice President in the Reagan administration, defended his country at the United Nations by arguing that the US attack had been a wartime incident and that the crew of the Vincennes had acted appropriately to the situation. Surprisingly, as admitted by the marines aboard, the USS Vincennes was in Iranian waters and the flight was targeted in Iranian airspace.

What the United States was all too inclined to call ‘legitimate self-defense’ in a bid to whitewash their grave crime was not in fact a self-defense at all. The Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations allows the use of military force by a nation that has been attacked until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to deal with the problem. In other words, the article limits the legitimacy of self-defense in the face of an actual attack, and as such, preemptive actions cannot be considered as self-defense and will be a blatant violation of the Principle of Non-Use of Force in International Law. The United States, unfortunately, is quite apt at justifying any of their war crimes under the term of ‘self-defense’ even in the cases where all evidence is pointing to the contrary. Another such instance was when the US claimed that Article 51 of the UN Charter authorizes its entire unilateral war in Afghanistan. 

By calling the tragic incident a justifiable self-defense or later a case of ‘scenario fulfilment’ brought about under stress, the United States tried, yet again, to sweep its horrendous wrongdoings under the carpet and if the fact that even after 27 years since that day, hardly anyone remembers the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 is anything to go by, the US has been quite successful at its cover-up attempts.  


What is more disturbing is that the US government never issued a political apology because it never admitted any wrongdoing or responsibility in this tragedy. The men of the Vincennes were all awarded combat-action ribbons. According to a 23 April 1990 article printed in The Washington Post, the Legion of Merit was presented to Captain Rogers and Lieutenant Commander Lustig for their performance in the Persian Gulf on 3 July 1988. The citations did not mention the downing of the Iran Air flight at all.

Sure, the US government issued notes of regret for the loss of human lives and in 1996 paid reparations to settle a suit brought into the International Court of Justice regarding the incident, but they never released an apology or acknowledgment of wrongdoing. In George Bush’s direct quotation on August 2, 1988 it says, "I will never apologize for the United States - I don't care what the facts are... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy."


The United States, as a major power that controls and manipulates the public opinion so that their forged beautiful image of justice will not be tarnished by such incidents, has a long history of resorting to a double-standard policy any time it suits their purposes. They have steadfastly condemned the shooting down of aircrafts, whether civil or military, by the armed forces of another State such in the cases of El Al Flight 402, Libyan Arab Airlines Flight 114 and Korean Air Lines Flight 007; The US also found Iraq fully responsible for the attack on the USS Stark on the grounds that the Iraqi pilot "knew or should have known" that he was attacking a US warship. But when it comes down to shouldering their own responsibilities in committing crimes and errors, they are not known to be a nation of much integrity.​

The US may have tried and continue to whitewash the blood stains on its hands by distorting historical facts and manipulating global opinion so as to preserve its nice and benevolent self-image, but Iranians will never forget that the 290 innocent victims deserve better than this. Iranians mark the anniversary of the attack for another year, but this time it comes just few months after corpses of 175 divers who were martyred being buried hand-tied returned home and a glorious funeral was held for them with millions of people attending it. The divers were all arrested during an operation whose intelligence and information was given to Baathi regime of Iraq by American intelligence bodies. Thanks to US wrongdoings and hostility toward Iran, Iranians seem to have enough incidents throughout the calendar to remember what animosity Americans have done from 1953 coup toppling PM Mosaddegh to war and all the way to unfair sanctions against the country.


News Code 108338


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