The announcement by Russian officials that Iran had fired upon a commercial plane, killing all 176 crew and passengers, because it was spooked by “six F-35 U.S. fighter jets” closing in on its borders is indeed another tipping point. If verified, the disaster would be the second time a tragedy of this magnitude had been provoked by the U.S.-the direct consequence of the escalating hostilities between the nations when it killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani. The first tragedy was in 1988, when the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger jet killing all 295 on board, including 66 children. Consequently, is there anything we can learn from these two tragedies?
Tale of Two Tragedies
Favoring Saddam Hussein in Iraq’s war against Iran, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in an ascending flight path over civilian airspace and in Iranian waters. Some suspected the U.S. knew it was shooting down a civilian plane. The official line was: “The Iranians brought it on themselves.” Meanwhile, the U.S. media focused on the commander’s and crew’s anguish in having shot down the plane, followed by images of the Iranian Revolution and Hostage Crisis. The admiral and crew later received a hero’s welcome and were awarded medals for killing 295 civilians. American leaders said it was an “understandable event,” and that they would never apologize.
Ukraine Flight 752 was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Iran (IRGI) shortly after takeoff from Tehran’s International Airport, killing all 176 passengers. Although initially Iranian aviation officials denied the airplane was hit by a missile and said a technical error was responsible, the IRGI took full responsibility. Several key IRGI military personnel were immediately fired. The commander said he “wished he were dead” when he heard of the tragedy. President Hassan Rouhani described the accident as an “unforgivable mistake.” In the meantime, thousands of Iranians protested in the streets calling for leaders to step down.
The incident occurred due to an increase in tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Not only had the U.S. withdrawn from a signed nuclear agreement, but it had strengthened economic sanctions against Iran. This recent tragedy occurred five days after President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Soliemani, including 27 civilians, at Iraq’s International Airport and hours after retaliatory ballistic missile attacks by Iran on U.S. forces in Iraq wounding eleven. Soliemani was on a diplomatic mission. While some have questioned Iran’s decision not to close its airspace after the attack, others have pointed the finger at the U.S., blaming the U.S. for the tragedy.