Iranians commemorate these days the shooting down of civilian Iran Air flight 655 (IR655), an Airbus A300B2 (overall length 53.2 m, wingspan 44.84 m) by U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser USS Vincennes in the Strait of Hormuz of the Persian Gulf, 22 years ago. The Airbus was on its way from Bandar Abbas to Dubai. All 290 civilians aboard, including 13 passengers of the United Arab Emirates, ten from India, six from Pakistan, six from Yugoslavia, one from Italy; about 40 66 being children, died when two radar-guided missiles were fired at the airliner which had been mistaken as an F 14-Tomcat fighter (length 19.1 m, wingspan 19.55 m). Despite the fact that, in 1996, an agreement had been reached at the International Court of Justice which granted the victims’ families compensations amounting to $61.8 Mio, no United States official has ever admitted accountability or apologized for the incident.

The incidence happened at the end of the 8-year long Iran-Iraq war. The USS Vincennes had been deployed in order to protect neutral friendly shipping in the Strait. Throughout the war, the U.S. under President Ronal Reagan had supported Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran, being silent on gassing Kurds and Iranians in the trenches of the battle fields. Then-Special Envoy to the Middle East Donald Rumsfeld’s infamous handshake with the dictator in Baghdad in 1983 tells in fact volumes about the special relationship of these allies. America’s main concern had been isolating Iran and its containment. In October 1987, the U.S. Navy forces had attacked Iranian oil platforms as retaliation for an Iranian missile attack on a reflagged Kuwaiti oil tanker at anchor off Kuwait. Attacks on Iran oil platforms went on when an American Frigate had been badly damaged by an Iranian mine in April 1988.

Then, the IR655 incident happened. Despite claims of USS Vincennes Captain William C. Rogers III that the airplane had not identified itself and had not responded to warning signals, independent sources such as Dubai Airport and, of course, the Iranians confirmed the opposite. The aircraft had even been ascending , so it could not have had posed a thread.

Both, the shooting down of IR655 and Iraqi airplanes dropping cyanide bombs, first on the Kurdish village of Halabja that year and then in July on the Iranian village of Zardan, are considered the turning point in the war. The war ended in August 1988 with a ceasefire and Iran’s acceptance of UN Resolution 598.

On 15 August 1988, Newsweek quoted then-Vice President and later President George H. W. Bush:

“I will never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”

Last update July 3, 2010.

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