Saturday, 9 July 2016

Tehran meeting of 9 July 1988

“It is now widely accepted that the sequence of events leading to the Lockerbie disaster began on 3 July 1988, in the Persian Gulf. While sailing in Iranian territorial waters, the US Aegis-class cruiser Vincennes somehow mistook a commercial Iranian Airbus that had just taken off from Bandar Abbas airport for an Iranian F14 fighter closing in to attack and shot it down, killing all 290 passengers on board, most of them pilgrims on their way to Mecca.

“Predictably, the United States government not only sought to excuse this blunder but lied to Congress about it, lied in its official investigation of the incident, and handed out a Commendation Medal to the ship's air-warfare coordinator for his 'heroic achievement'. (Although he earned nothing but notoriety for the kill, the cruiser's commander, Capt Will Rogers III, still insists that the Vincennes was in international waters at the time, and that he made the proper decision. After being beached in San Diego for a decent interval, he was allowed to retire honorably in August 1991.)

“The Iranians were incensed. Paying the US Navy the compliment of believing that it knew what it was doing, they chose to construe America's evasive response to their complaint before the UN Security Council as a coverup for a deliberate act of aggression rather than as an attempt to hide its embarrassment. (They were already smarting from what they perceived to be America's failure to honor its secret arms-for-hostages deal.)

“To reaffirm the power of Islam, and in retribution for the injury, the Ayatollah Khomeini himself is said to have ordered the destruction of not one, but four American-flag airliners. But discreetly. Not even the most implacable defender of an unforgiving faith could afford to provoke an open war with 'the Great Satan', particularly at a time when he was obliged to look to the West for technology and trade to rebuild an Iranian economy all but shattered by the long war with Iraq.

“His minister of the interior, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, was placed in charge of planning Iran's revenge. At a meeting in Tehran on 9 July 1988, he awarded the contract to Ahmed Jibril, a former Syrian army officer and head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), based in Damascus. Although Jibril later denied his complicity in the bombing, he was reported to have bragged privately that the fee for the job was $10 million. Unnamed US government sources let it be known that the CIA had traced wire transfers of the money to Jibril's secret bank accounts in Switzerland and Spain.)”

From Trail of the Octopus by Donald Goddard and Lester K Coleman (1993 UK; 2009 USA), pages 15-16.

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