In response to Trump, who threatened to attack 52 Iranian targets in reference to the number of Americans taken hostage at the US embassy in Tehran in 1979, the president of Iran said the number 290 – number of people killed by a plane crash must be remembered. Iranian trade in 1988 (Photo: IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP via BBC News Brazil)
Just days before the crash of the Ukrainian plane that killed 176 people in Iran, a tweak of Twitter splinters between the US and Iranian presidents brought to light an episode that was little remembered in the US, but still alive in Iran's memory: the attack on commercial flight 655 Iran Air, shot down in 1988 by a missile fired by a US Navy ship.
Last weekend, American Donald Trump threatened via Twitter to destroy 52 targets in Iran, in reference to the 52 Americans taken hostage following the takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded with another number. of historical significance: 290.
"Those who refer to number 52 should also remember number 290. # IR655 Never threaten the Iranian nation," Rouhani posted on her Twitter account on Monday.
Rouhani referred to the number of victims of the episode with Iran Air 655.
Trump and Rouhani's statements came after the United States killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani last week in an attack on Baghdad, Iraq. Soleimani was considered the second most important man in the country, behind only the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei.
Two days later, diplomatic tension between countries would eventually involve the crash of another plane. On Wednesday (8), the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran bound for Kiev (Ukraine).
On Saturday (11), the Iranian government admitted that it mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian plane.
An internal investigation found that "missiles were fired for human error," said President Hassan Rouhani. He described the tragedy as an "unforgivable mistake".
Military officials said the plane was flying very close to a sensitive place belonging to the Revolutionary Guard of Iran and was mistakenly considered a hostile aircraft.
Overturning of the Iranian commercial plane took place during the war between Iran and Iraq. At the time, the US supported the Iraqis and their leader Saddam Hussein (right in the photo). Years later, the US would go to war with Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hu. (Photo: Getty Images via BBC)
The tragedy of Flight 655 on July 3, 1988, occurred in the final months of the Iran-Iraq war, in which the United States supported the Iraqis and their leader, Saddam Hussein.
In the midst of the conflict, the Iranian government was stopping vessels in the Persian Gulf that it suspected were doing business with Iraq, and American warships patrolled the Strait of Hormuz to protect major shipping routes in the oil trade.
That morning, according to a US Department of Defense report, a helicopter launched by US cruiser USS Vincennes on a reconnaissance mission had been hit by gunfire from small Iranian vessels.
As this conflict between US and Iranian vessels unfolded in the Persian Gulf, Iran Air's Airbus A300 was taking off from a nearby airport in the Iranian city of Bandar Abbas, a stopover on the route between the capital Tehran and its final destination, Dubai. in the United Arab Emirates. There were 16 crew members and 274 passengers, including 66 children.
Bandar Abbas airport was used by both civilian and military aircraft, and according to the US government, when the commercial jet was detected by Vincennes radar, crew members mistook the passenger plane for an Iranian military fighter.
Iran Air's flight was in Iranian territorial waters and was following its normal route, but had taken off more than 20 minutes late. The US government says that, thinking it was a fighter under attack, the Vincennes sent a series of warnings to the aircraft.
Unanswered, it fired two missiles, shooting down the plane and killing all 290 people on board. Among the victims, 254 were Iranian citizens.
The next day, US President Ronald Reagan, who was at Camp David for the July 4, Independence Day holiday, offered "condolences to the passengers, the crew, and their families."
Then-President Ronald Reagan, hearing of the plane's downfall, offered "condolences" to families who lost relatives, but admitted no mistake or responsibility from the US military in the episode (Photo: Getty Images via BBC News)
"This is a terrible human tragedy," Reagan told a statement. But the US leader also said the plane was heading for the Vincennes and did not respond to "repeated warnings." According to Reagan, the American vessel had acted "to protect itself from a possible attack."
The Defense Department's conclusion, in a report released on August 18 of that year, was that there was no negligent conduct on the part of the Americans and that Iran should "share responsibility for the tragedy" by allowing a commercial jet to fly. on the area in which the conflict between vessels of the two countries was taking place.
But a few months later, in December, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations agency specializing in air travel, released its own report, which identified "vague and inappropriate precautions" by the US Navy to prevent aircraft civilians were approaching combat operations in the Persian Gulf, which contributed to the tragedy.
One of the points highlighted by ICAO was the lack of adequate equipment on US ships to monitor the radio frequencies used by civil air traffic control, which would have allowed identification of the passenger plane. The warnings issued by Vincennes before firing the missiles were broadcast on emergency channels, most of them on a military channel, to which the pilots of Flight 655 had no access.
Although the United States warned that the overthrow of Flight 655 was an accident, Iran did not accept the explanation and accused the Americans of acting deliberately and illegally while in Iranian waters.
The United States had severed diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 following the takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979 by Iranian protesters, who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
Iranian President Hassan Rhouani attended a military parade last year in memory of the Iran-Iraq war (Photo: STRINGER / AFP / GETTY IMAGES via BBC News Brazil)
"Iran did not believe it was a mistake," historian Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University in California, tells BBC News Brasil.
In the year following the tragedy in May 1989, Iran sued the United States in the UN International Court of Justice. The two countries reached an agreement in 1996. The United States has agreed to pay $ 61.8 million ($ 252 million) to the families of Iranian victims, but has never admitted responsibility or formally apologized. Despite their role in the tragedy, Vincennes commanders at the time of the attack were awarded medals in 1990.
"All this made (the overthrow of Flight 655) a very symbolic moment in history," says Milani.
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