Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has lashed out at the United States on the anniversary of a US warship’s downing of Iran Air Flight 655, which resulted in the deaths of 290 passengers back in 1988.
Addressing a cabinet session on Wednesday, Rouhani blasted the US government’s official account that the USS Vincennes had mistaken the Iranian passenger plane with a jet fighter.
“One cannot believe and even imagine that a warship has mistaken a huge plane like the Airbus airliner with a jet fighter. The state of the passenger plane in its flight route and the way it took off are totally different from the way a jet fighter flies. Any individual with the most rudimentary knowledge of the basics and alphabet of military affairs would understand that the doomed plane was going up in a specified direction. A jet fighter doesn’t move like that,” he noted.
“Let’s even suppose they’ve made a mistake and thought it was an F-14 jet fighter. Why did you attack an F-14? F-14 is not a bomber plane, is it? If you had mistaken it with a Phantom, that could be justified; you’d have said it was a Phantom that could bombard us,” Rouhani said.
However, he added, “an F-14 is a jet fighter used for interception and dogfight. Was an American plane in front of this F-14? The warship was down there; what could the Tomcat do from that altitude? F-14 doesn’t have any air-to-surface missile and doesn’t carry any bomb. Its missiles are air-to-air. This is a baseless justification [that they mistook the airliner with an F-14].”
“Scientifically speaking, it is not at all acceptable to say they’ve made a mistake. Even if they had made a mistake, they never apologized to the Iranian nation or punished the warship’s captain. On the contrary, they rewarded them and gave them medals,” Rouhani noted, referring to the fact that the warship’s captain was awarded the prestigious medal of Legion of Merit for his so-called outstanding service.
“This shows it is quite easy for Americans to commit crimes. They can easily mutilate 290 passengers and crew members in the air in cold blood, and then try to get over it by making a delusional statement,” Rouhani said.
In a ceremony on Wednesday, the international airport of Bandar Abbas, the city where the Airbus A300-B2 plane belonging to Iran’s flag carrier Iran Air had just taken off from at 10:17 am, was renamed to “Flight 655 Martyrs Airport”.
The idea was first raised and promoted by famous Iranian actor Parviz Parastouei.
Back in 1988, the plane with 274 passengers and 16 crew members on board was climbing inside an internationally recognized route to Dubai when the US cruiser, the USS Vincennes, fired two SM-2MR surface-to-air missiles at it, one of which hit the plane and killed all the people on board.
US officials claimed their warship had mistaken the airliner for a supersonic and variable-sweep wing Grumman F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.
The allegation was made even as the warship was equipped with highly sophisticated radar systems and electronic battle gear, and the passenger plane was transmitting Mode III 6760 squawk code, typical of a civilian aircraft, and maintained radio contact in English with appropriate air traffic control facilities.
Washington later paid some 95 million dollars in compensation for the Iranian victims and the aircraft.
The money, however, failed to placate the anti-US sentiments in Iran, where people expected the USS Vincennes’ captain, William Rogers, to be held responsible for his criminal act. Rogers was instead awarded the prestigious medal of Legion of Merit for his so-called outstanding service.