Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Iran Air 655. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Iran Air 655. Sort by date Show all posts

Saturday 29 June 2019

Iran Air flight 655 and scenario fulfilment

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Ann Wright published yesterday in Consortium News:]

The Iranian military shot down a US spy drone last week, bringing the two countries to the brink of war.

Iran said the drone was over Iranian airspace (...)

The US says the drone, a $22 million RQ-4A Global Hawk, was in international airspace.  

But why should one believe the US with its history of lying?  

Remember back to 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, when the USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser, shot down Iran Air Flight 655 with all 290 people on board including 66 children.  The regularly scheduled passenger flight was over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on the routine flight path shortly after taking off from Bandar Abbas heading on the 28-minute flight to Dubai.  Its transponder was signaling it was a civilian aircraft.

The US warship was in Iranian territorial waters after one of its helicopters drew warning shots from Iranian speedboats that were guarding Iranian waterways.

Yet, the US maintained that it was correct in shooting down a civilian aircraft that it said the crew thought was a military aircraft.  It took years before the US offered recompense through the International Court of Justice. 

When a group of us were on a citizens’ peace delegation to Iran in February we visited the Tehran Peace Museum. We knew from previous trips that the wound of the destruction of Iran Air Flight 655 was still raw.  This time we presented the director of the peace museum with a book made by a member of our delegation with the names of all of those killed on Flight 655, along with our apologies.

In a 2000 BBC documentary titled The Other Lockerbie, and in an MIT study  of the Flight 655 shoot-down, US government officials stated in a written answer that they believed the shoot down of Iran Air 655 may have been caused by a simultaneous psychological condition among the 18 bridge crew of Vincennes, called “scenario fulfillment,” which is said to occur when people are under pressure. US officials said that in such a situation, the crew will carry out a training scenario, believing it to be reality while ignoring sensory information that contradicts the scenario. In the case of this incident, the training scenario was an attack by a lone military aircraft when in fact, in reality, the aircraft was a civilian passenger plane on a regularly scheduled flight.

Let’s hope Bolton and Pompeo’s “scenario fulfillment” does not lead the White House to further military confrontation, much less an attack on Iran.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a colonel.   She was a US diplomat for 16 years and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the US government in March 2003 in opposition to President George W Bush’s war on Iraq. She is co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

Friday 10 January 2020

Innocence of Megrahi and Libya does not point to guilt of Iran

[What follows is excerpted from an article by Dr Ludwig de Braeckeleer published today on his Intel Today website, where full supporting citations can be found:]

On January 6 2020, President Hassan Rouhani tweeted the following message:

“Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655. Never threaten the Iranian nation.”

This tweet was a response to President Donald Trump’s threat to target 52 sites in Iran should it retaliate against the US drone strike that killed top Iranian military figure General Qassem Soleimani on January 3 2020.

Not surprisingly, Rouhani’s message was quickly commented on by Middle East and Lockerbie experts as well as by imbeciles and hypocrites.

Real experts —

Middle East analyst Fatima Alasrar, from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, was one of the first to indicate the link between Rouhani’s tweet and Lockerbie.

“Rouhani is basically reminding @realDonaldTrump of the #Iranian Air Flight 655 carrying 290 passengers which was downed by a US navy warship the Vincennes in 1988.

Though it was deemed a human error, Tehran worked covertly to exact its revenge.

How? Lockerbie.”

Robert Black — Professor Emeritus of Scots Law in the University of Edinburgh and best known as the architect of the Lockerbie Trial– concurs.

Speaking to The National as Iran continued to mourn Soleimani, Black said:

“I think Rouhani’s tweet does refer to Pan Am 103 … The 290 clearly refers to those killed on Iran Air 655 and with ‘Never threaten the Iranian nation’ it seems to me that he’s saying that Iran responded to those Iranian deaths caused by US action.

The only response that I can think of was the bombing of Pan Am 103 six months later.”

Imbeciles and hypocrites —

Given half a chance, idiots will never miss the opportunity to share with you their “deep knowledge” on sensitive issues. The current Iran Crisis is a case in point.

Describing himself as an expert on terrorism strategy with 36 years of services in the US Intel Community, Malcolm Nance tweeted:

“PANAM 103 was DEFINATELY Qaddafi Libya. We found the same Swiss digital detonators were purchased by Libyan intelligence and were also used on the UTA 772 in flight bombing. No question. Iran had nothing to do with it.”

Here is a quick primer for this “expert”. Firstly, no detonators were recovered, let alone identified, among the debris of PA 103 and UTA 772.

Secondly, the timer that allegedly triggered the bomb on UTA 772 was produced in Taiwan, not Switzerland.

Thirdly, we know now that PT/35(b) — a fragment of an PCB allegedly found at Lockerbie — does NOT match the metallurgy of the Swiss timers — MST13 — delivered to Libya. Full stop. (...)

Intel Today analysis —

There is no doubt whatsoever that Rouhani makes a direct reference to the 290 victims of Iranian Air Flight 655.

His warning “Never threaten the Iranian nation” appears to be a veiled threat suggesting that Iran will retaliate for Soleimani’s assassination just like they did in the case of Iranian Air Flight 655.

Assuming that this is indeed what Rouhani means, then it seems logical to conclude that he is claiming Iran’s responsibility for the downing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie.

Actually, it is not the first time that a high level Iranian cleric claims responsibility for Lockerbie.

Indeed, when I spoke to Bani Sadr — who served as the first president of the Republic of Iran — he told me that ayatollah Motashemi-pur had immediately taken credit for the Lockerbie bombing which he regarded as a “just revenge” for Flight 655.


Let me say this one more time. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Lockerbie verdict is utter nonsense.

Megrahi — the man known as the Lockerbie bomber — clearly suffered a spectacular miscarriage of justice.

In fact, the analysis of the fragment that linked Libya to Lockerbie demonstrates that the Swiss timers delivered to Libya played no role in the tragedy.

This is, in my opinion, the only reasonable conclusion that an honest person can reach.

However, to many observers, the innocence of Megrahi — and Libya — can only point to the guilt of Iran.

I can not agree with such a flawed logic, for it may very well replace a 30 years old lie by a new one, which would be quite convenient to certain groups today as it would suit very well their geopolitical agenda. (...)

Let me make this point very clear. There is not a shred of evidence that Iran ordered the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie as an act of retaliation for Iran Air 655.

And there is a good reason for that which I will reveal today.

In the aftermath of Flight 655 disaster, the US and Iran conducted a series of secret talks in the city of Montreux, Switzerland.  Richard Lawless was representing Bush and Abolghasem Mesbahi was an envoy of Rafsanjani.

By the end of September 1988 — 3 months before Lockerbie — they managed to settle an agreement.

None of this has ever been made public for obvious reasons. It would have been perceived as a second IranGate scandal. (...)

So, what really happened?

The Lockerbie investigation underwent three separated stages. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the American and British investigators quickly identified the cause of the tragedy as well as those responsible for it.

However, both Bush and Thatcher agreed that the truth was inconvenient.

From early January 1989 to March 1989, US and UK Intelligence agencies were busy writing a script implicating Iran.

That was not a very difficult task considering that very realistic but false “means, motive, and opportunity” could easily be wowen into a rather believable story.

Basically, the events of the “Autumn Leaves” operation — the PFLP-GC cell operating in Frankfurt — became a blueprint for the script. Thus all the key items appear at this stage: brown Samsonite, clothes from Malta, Toshiba radio, Semtex, Frankfurt, etc…

But in March 1989,  George H W Bush and Margaret Thatcher decided to hold off this game plan.

Why? Remember that the US is in secret talks with Rafsanjani and the future seems promising.

Ayatollah Khomeini is dying and his hardliner heir — Grand Ayatollah Montazeri — has been sacked on March 26 1989.

Khomeini died on June 3rd 1989. Ali Khamenei was elevated from the position of hojatoleslām to the rank of Ayatollah.That title, and a modification of the Constitution which previously restricted the job to the few people such Montazeri who had the title of Grand Ayatollah, was then enough to promote him as Khomeini’s successor.

Next, Rafsanjani himself was elected Iran’s president on August 3rd 1989.

By September 1989, blaming Iran for Lockerbie would no longer have served the geopolitical interests of the US and UK.

And lo and behold, in September 1989, the investigation entered stage 3 and  switched away from Iran to solely focus on Libya thanks to the mysterious ‘discovery’ of a tiny circuit board known as PT/35(b). The rest is History. (...)

If the SCCRC recommend a new trial, the infamous Zeist verdict does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving.

This should be the very top priority. Once Megrahi is acquitted and the Lockerbie-Libya fiction is erased once and for all, then the time will be right to investigate the true cause of disaster and reveal the identity of the culprits. It is not very hard at all…

Monday 11 January 2016

A look at Lockerbie: Iran Air Flight 655

[This is the headline over an article, the first in a projected series, published yesterday on the website. It reads in part:]

The tragic story of the Lockerbie bombing begins in Iran, with the US downing of Iranian Air Flight 655 killing 290. Part 1 of a multi-part series.

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Shia of Iran were asserting autonomy from Western control. Sunni leader Saddam Hussein, nervous about the influence that the revolution might have on his own country's Shia majority, invaded Iran and started the Iran-Iraq war of 1984-1988. Saddam, fully supported by the United States, felt confident that his victory would be swift. However, after a long stalemate the tide had started to turn on Iraq, and by 1987 the country was facing the serious possibility that it would be conquered by Iran. In 1988, the US, anxious to save their friend Saddam from destruction, began attacking Iranian oil platforms and ships. US operations had killed 56 Iranians by June of 1988.

One US naval vessel dispatched to the region was the USS Vincennes, commanded by Captain Will Rogers III. The Vincennes was a state-of-the-art Aegis cruiser. Designed to fight against advanced Soviet weaponry, the Vincennes was purported to be able to shoot down 200 incoming missiles at once. As Newsweek would later write in its in depth analysis of the events, “The Vincennes had a dubious reputation inside the U.S. fleet in the gulf…By early July, Rogers was widely regarded as ‘trigger happy,’ according to several high-ranking officers.” Indeed few could scarcely imagine just how apt this description would prove to be.

On the morning of July 3rd, 1988, Rogers successfully provoked gunboats into attacking his recon helicopter in Iranian territorial waters. Rogers quickly rushed to engage the gunboats despite it being a clear violation of Iranian sovereignty. When he arrived, the helicopter was no longer in any danger. However, even though the boats posed no threat to the Vincennes (which Newsweek speculates the gunboats might not have even seen), Rogers claimed on the radio that the gunboats were headed towards him and that he needed to engage in self-defense. At this time, David Carlson, the perplexed captain of the nearby USS Sides, wondered if Rogers in his billion dollar Aegis Cruiser felt threatened by the gunboats (little more than speedboats with crude weapons attached), then why didn’t Rogers simply turn around and leave? Rogers did not leave and instead received the go ahead from his commander in Bahrain to engage. However, the Aegis cruiser was designed to shoot down advanced Soviet weaponry, not lightly armed speedboats, so the task proved more difficult than Rogers first imagined it would be and he became involved in a protracted battle between his billion dollar ship and four speedboats with small guns attached to them.

Right around this time, Iran Air Flight 655, was taking off from Bandar Abbas Airport with 290 people on board. The flight was on its regularly scheduled flight to Dubai, which it ran twice every week. At the time of take off the USS Vincennes, identified Iran Air Flight 655 as “assumed hostile” and sent a computerized query to the airplane’s transponder to see if it was civilian or military. The plane’s computer identified itself to the Vincennes as civilian, but Vincennes crew-members were suspicious. Initially monitoring the situation was Petty Officer Andrew Anderson. Anderson, apparently confused by the time zones of the Gulf, did not find the regularly scheduled flight in the Navy’s book of commercial air traffic and speculated that the plane might be an F-14 fighter posing as civilian. Anderson alerted his commander Scott Lustig and his commander alerted the captain that a possible Iranian F-14 was inbound. (...)

Even if it was an F-14, the models that the Iranians owned (which were sold by the US to the Shah in the 1970s), were outdated and designed only for air-to-air combat, and therefore could do little against the Vincennes. However, after trying to hail the plane on military channels (which of course the passenger flight did not respond to because it was communicating on civilian channels) Rogers gave the green light to shoot down the aircraft. After announcing his intentions over military channels to take down the aircraft, USS Sides captain David Carlson, “wondered aloud in disbelief”, but assumed that the Vincennes must have some information that he did not. Attempting to fire, Scott Lustig pressed the wrong keys on his console 23 times before finally launching the missiles. Upon confirming that the missiles struck their target the crew of the Vincennes issued “a spontaneous cheer,” as Rogers would later recount in his farcical book, Storm Center.

Soon reality came crashing down on the crew of the Vincennes as wreckage and bodies from the civilian airliner began falling. All 290 passengers, including 66 children were killed. An entire Iranian family of sixteen, on their way to a wedding in Dubai, was killed, the children wearing their wedding clothes. It is assumed that many, if not most of the passengers were alive as they fell from the sky.

The reaction of Western leaders and the media was despicable. In an address to the UN Security Council Vice President George HW Bush said that the Vincennes acted “in self-defense,” and that “Iran, too, must bear a substantial measure of responsibility for what happened.” Bush went on saying, “There are three ways for Iran to avoid future tragedies… Keep airliners away from combat. Stop attacking innocent ships. Or, better still, the best way is peace.” An op-ed written on July 5th in The New York Times argues that Rogers “had little choice” other than to shoot down the airliner. “Blame may lie with the Iran Air pilot for failing to acknowledge the ship's warnings and flying outside the civilian corridor. Iran, too, may bear responsibility for failing to warn civilian planes away from the combat zone of an action it had initiated.” Conveniently, the Iran Air pilot, Mohsen Rezaian, was not alive to counter these accusations. Referring to US lies claiming that the Vincennes was engaged with Iranian gunboats to protect a German merchant vessel, William Safire wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “As the plane approached, ignoring repeated warnings and reportedly sending conflicting signals, the naval officer must have thought of the fate of the frigate.” Safire went on to criticize what he called, “military second-guessers”, and that “responsibility lies with the nation that started the war (Iraq) [sic] and the nation that grimly demands victory (Iran) [sic].” Never mind, of course, the fact that Iran was invaded by Iraq which attacked with the full support of the US government.

US government lies about what had occurred shifted daily as their statements became disproved. Initially the government claimed that the flight was descending in “attack mode” rather than ascending. This initial lie led to disgusting op-eds in Western media outlets speculating that the Iranian pilot was trying to fly his plane into the Vincennes. However, it would soon be proven by David Carlson and a nearby Italian naval vessel that the flight was in fact ascending not descending. Vice President Bush claimed that the Vincennes was rushing to the aid of a merchant vessel under attack, a claim which was a complete fabrication and which would later be retracted. It would then be claimed that the flight had been communicating the wrong signal, which was not true and was misinterpreted by crew members of the Vincennes. The lies were dispatched succinctly in a Newsweek article analyzing the disaster.

After news of the story broke, and a degree of international scrutiny was fixed on US actions, citizens of Vincennes, Indiana, began to pay more attention to an ongoing fundraising drive for a monument to the USS Vincennes in their hometown. (...) Robert Fisk writes, “When the ship returned to its home base of San Diego, it was given a hero’s welcome. The men of the Vincennes were all awarded combat action ribbons. The air warfare coordinator, Commander Scott Lustig, won the navy’s Commendation Medal for ‘heroic achievement,’ for the ‘ability to maintain his poise and confidence under fire’ that enabled him to ‘quickly and concisely complete the firing procedure.’” Captain Rogers retired honorably in 1991 after receiving the Legion of Merit award for “exceptionally meritorious conduct as a commanding officer (of the Vincennes).”

Following this crime, and the subsequent arrogance of the US leadership, the Iranians and people across the Middle East became convinced that the crime was committed intentionally. The Iranian leadership interpreted it as an act of war and furthermore believed that unless they retaliated the US would continue to shoot down its commercial airliners. In the months that followed, the Iranian leadership would host several meetings of bomb experts across the Middle East, and would start to forge a plan to show the West that Iran was capable of retaliating in a significant manner.

Wednesday 8 January 2020

Rouhani's tweet indicates Iran was to blame for Lockerbie

[This is the headline over a report by Greg Russell in today's edition of The National. It reads as follows:]

A leading figure in the Lockerbie trial has said he believes that a social media post from the Iranian president refers to the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 and Iran’s responsibility for it.

Hassan Rouhani posted a tweet in response to President Donald Trump’s threat to target 52 sites in Iran should it retaliate against the US drone strike that killed top Iranian military figure General Qassem Soleimani on Friday.

Rouhani tweeted: “Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655. Never threaten the Iranian nation.”

The number 290 is a reference to the number of passengers on board Iranian Airways flight IR655 who died when the US Navy accidentally shot down their plane over the Persian Gulf in summer 1988.

Five months later, 270 people died when Pan Am flight 103 crashed in Lockerbie after a bomb exploded on board.

Blame for the attack fell on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and Libya, although Western intelligence agencies believed Iran had ordered the bombing in retaliation for America’s downing of its plane in July.

Speaking to The National as Iran continued to mourn Soleimani, Robert Black QC, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law in the University of Edinburgh, said: “I think Rouhani’s tweet does refer to Pan Am 103 … The 290 clearly refers to those killed on Iran Air 655 and with ‘Never threaten the Iranian nation’ it seems to me that he’s saying that Iran responded to those Iranian deaths caused by US action.

“The only response that I can think of was the bombing of Pan Am 103 six months later.”

Middle East analyst Fatima Alasrar, from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, also indicated the link between Rouhani’s tweet and Lockerbie.

She wrote: “Rouhani is basically reminding @realDonaldTrump of the #Iranian Air Flight 655 carrying 290 passengers which was downed by a US navy warship the Vincennes in 1988.

“Though it was deemed a human error, Tehran worked covertly to exact its revenge.

“How? #Lockerbie.

“Boeing 747 airline Pan Am exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 and was assumed to be an operation conducted by the Libyans when it was #Iran who orchestrated the downing of the plane and paid the Libyans to do it.

“After years of denying, Rouhani just admitted to it!”

Black was born and raised in Lockerbie and has published many articles on the atrocity.

He is often referred to as the architect of the Lockerbie trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

The QC said other analysts shared Alasrar’s view: “Quite a lot of area experts in addition to Fatima Alasrar are interpreting the tweet as an implied admission (or boast) of responsibility for Lockerbie, for example Kyle Orton [who wrote] ‘The accidental shoot-down of Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 convinced Khomeini to accept the ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq War. It has long been suspected that the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie five months later was Iran’s revenge. Rouhani seems to be taking responsibility’.”

Friday 15 August 2014

Chomsky on Malaysia Airlines flight 17 and Iran Air flight 655

[Since the early days of the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines flight 17, I have been at pains to suggest that a better comparator than the Pan Am 103 disaster that lazy politicians and journalists were regularly pointing to was the shooting down by the USS Vincennes of Iran Air flight 655 in July 1988. I am delighted that Justice for Megrahi member Noam Chomsky takes the same view.  Here are excerpts from an article published by him on 14 August:]

Almost every day brings news of awful crimes, but some are so heinous, so horrendous and malicious, that they dwarf all else. One of those rare events took place on July 17, when Malaysian Airlines MH17 was shot down in Eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people.

The Guardian of Virtue in the White House denounced it as an “outrage of unspeakable proportions,” which happened “because of Russian support.” His UN Ambassador thundered that “when 298 civilians are killed” in the “horrific downing” of a civilian plane, “we must stop at nothing to determine who is responsible and to bring them to justice.” She also called on Putin to end his shameful efforts to evade his very clear responsibility.

True, the “irritating little man” with the “ratlike face” (Timothy Garton Ash) had called for an independent investigation, but that could only have been because of sanctions from the one country courageous enough to impose them, the United States, while Europeans cower in fear.

On CNN, former US Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor assured the world that the irritating little man “is clearly responsible ... for the shoot down of this airliner.” For weeks, lead stories reported the anguish of the families, details of the lives of the murdered victims, the international efforts to claim the bodies, the fury over the horrific crime that “stunned the world,” as the press reports daily in grisly detail.

Every literate person, and certainly every editor and commentator, instantly recalled another case when a plane was shot down with comparable loss of life: Iran Air 655 with 290 killed, including 66 children, shot down in Iranian airspace in a clearly identified commercial air route. The crime was not carried out “with US support,” nor has its agent ever been uncertain. It was the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes, operating in Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf.

The commander of a nearby US vessel, David Carlson, wrote in the US Naval Proceedings that he “wondered aloud in disbelief” as “The Vincennes announced her intentions” to attack what was clearly a civilian aircraft. He speculated that “Robo Cruiser,” as the Vincennes was called because of its aggressive behavior, “felt a need to prove the viability of Aegis (the sophisticated anti-aircraft system on the cruiser) in the Persian Gulf, and that they hankered for the opportunity to show their stuff.”

Two years later, the commander of the Vincennes and the officer in charge of anti-air warfare were given the Legion of Merit award for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service” and for the “calm and professional atmosphere” during the period of the destruction of the Iranian Airbus. The incident was not mentioned in the award.

President Reagan blamed the Iranians and defended the actions of the warship, which “followed standing orders and widely publicized procedures, firing to protect itself against possible attack.” His successor, Bush I, proclaimed that “I will never apologize for the United States — I don't care what the facts are ... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.”

No evasions of responsibility here, unlike the barbarians in the East.

There was little reaction at the time: no outrage, no desperate search for victims, no passionate denunciations of those responsible, no eloquent laments by the US Ambassador to the UN about the “immense and heart-wrenching loss” when the airliner was downed. Iranian condemnations were occasionally noted, and dismissed as “boilerplate attacks on the United States.”

Small wonder, then, that this insignificant earlier event merited only a few scattered and dismissive words in the US media during the vast furor over a real crime, in which the demonic enemy might (or might not) have been indirectly involved.

One exception was in the London Daily Mail, where Dominic Lawson wrote that although “Putin's apologists” might bring up the Iran Air attack, the comparison actually demonstrates our high moral values as contrasted with the miserable Russians, who try to evade their responsibility for MH 17 with lies while Washington at once announced that the US warship had shot down the Iranian aircraft — righteously.

We know why Ukrainians and Russians are in their own countries, but one might ask what exactly the Vincennes was doing in Iranian waters. The answer is simple. It was defending Washington’s great friend Saddam Hussein in his murderous aggression against Iran. For the victims, the shoot-down was no small matter. It was a major factor in Iran’s recognition that it could not fight on any longer, according to historian Dilip Hiro.

It is worth remembering the extent of Washington’s devotion to its friend Saddam. Reagan removed him from the terrorist list so that aid could be sent to expedite his assault on Iran, and later denied his murderous crimes against the Kurds, blocking congressional condemnations. He also accorded Saddam a privilege otherwise granted only to Israel: there was no notable reaction when Iraq attacked the USS Stark with missiles, killing 37 crewmen, much like the case of the USS Liberty, attacked repeatedly by Israeli jets and torpedo ships in 1967, killing 34 crewmen.

Reagan’s successor, Bush I, went on to provide further aid to Saddam, badly needed after the war with Iran that he launched. Bush also invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to come to the US for advanced training in weapons production. In April 1990, Bush dispatched a high-level Senate delegation, led by future Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, to convey his warm regards to his friend Saddam and to assure him that he should disregard irresponsible criticism from the “haughty and pampered press,” and that such miscreants had been removed from Voice of America. The fawning before Saddam continued until he turned into a new Hitler a few months later by disobeying orders, or perhaps misunderstanding them, and invading Kuwait, with illuminating consequences that are worth reviewing once again though I will leave the matter here.

Sunday 5 July 2015

1988: Iran Air 655 - Casus Belli Behind Lockerbie Bombing?

This is the headline over an article by Caustic Logic which was originally published in March 2010 but which was re-published yesterday to mark the twenty-seventh anniversary of the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 by the USS Vincennes. It is the clearest treatment of which I am aware of the evidence (and there’s quite a lot of it) supporting the thesis that the bombing of Pan Am 103 was an Iranian-financed operation motivated by desire for revenge for the destruction of Iran Air 655, an operation in which Libya had no, or at most peripheral, involvement.   

Friday 3 January 2020

Iran's "cold, calculated revenge"

[What follows is a brief excerpt from an article by Martin Jay published today in Middle East Online about the American assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani yesterday in Baghdad:]

In the morning of 3rd of January millions of people in the West woke up to the news that an Iranian general named Qasem Soleimani had been assassinated by an American strike in Baghdad. But very few of them, if any, will understand just how colossal a move the decision by Trump is and what the payback will be.

By far, this strike is way bigger than anything Trump has done so far in the region (...)

In fact, one could argue that even America’s downing of an Iranian airliner in July 1988 in the straits of Hormuz – a military blunder by a commander of an aircraft carrier who believed that an Iranian airliner was a fighter jet descending – also cannot even compare. Given that the decision to shoot down the civilian airliner was a genuine military misjudgement it is worth noting what Iran’s response was: cold, calculated revenge against an American airliner, Pan Am flight 103 just six months later three days before Christmas, packed full of Americans, including military.

Iran’s revenge will be equally calculated, but much more than merely Lockerbie. It’s hard not to underestimate how powerful and how respected Soleimani was to the Iranians – and how feared by his enemies. (...)

Trump’s decision to give the assassination the green light – in preference for a military strike against pro-Iranian Iraqi units which were apparently planning attacks against US forces there – has taken the threat of a war to a higher level and should be seen more rationally as yet another chapter in the war with Iran, since 1979. But an important one. The war has now shifted from proxy to direct which indicate that despite all the reports to the contrary, Trump is indeed ready for a real hands-on war in the region with Iran.

[RB: It is interesting and instructive that the author of this article -- a very experienced commentator on the middle-eastern scene -- regards the destruction of Pan Am 103 as unquestionably an act of revenge by Iran for the downing of Iran Air 655 by the USS Vincennes. This was also the view of the US Central Intelligence Agency, as noted in this paragraph from a report posted on 3 January 2020 on the website of The Guardian:]

US intelligence certainly believes Hezbollah was behind the bombing of an Israeli-Argentinian cultural centre in Buenos Aires in 1994, and the bombing of a bus full of Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, in 2012. The CIA was also convinced that Iran was involved in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, in reprisal for the accidental downing of an Iranian airliner, Iran Air 655, five months earlier.

Sunday 3 July 2016

USS Vincennes and IR 655

[On this date in 1988 Iran Air flight 655 was shot down by the USS Vincennes. What follows is taken from an article on the Mail Online website. A great deal more about this shameful event can be found here.]

On July 3, 1988 an Iranian passenger jet was shot down by an American naval warship patrolling the Persian Gulf, killing all on board.

Iran Air flight 655 had been travelling from Bandar Abbas in Iran to Dubai when it was shot down by the USS Vincennes, resulting in the deaths of 290 civilians from six countries, including 66 children.

The USS Vincennes had tracked the plane electronically and warned it to keep away. When it did not the ship fired two surface-to-air missiles at the Airbus A300 B2-203, carrying many Iranians on their way to Mecca.

The attack still has the highest death toll of any aviation incident involving an Airbus A300, and any such incident in the Indian Ocean.

An official inquiry carried out by the US attributed the mistake to human error, saying that the crew had incorrectly identified the plane as a F-14 Tomcat fighter, and that the flight did not identify itself otherwise.

However, the Iranian government has always disputed the American version of events, with many claiming that the attack was purposeful, and a sign that the US can not be trusted in its dealings with the country.

The black box flight recorder on board the Airbus was never found, so it is unknown whether the crew ignored the American warnings via distress frequencies, or did not hear them.

It was only in 1992 that the US officially admitted that the vessel had been in Iranian waters after one of its helicopters drew warning fire from Iranian speedboats for operating within Iranian territory.

In 1996 the US agreed to pay Iran $61.8 million in compensation for the 248 Iranians killed, plus the cost of the aircraft and legal expenses.

It had already paid a further $40 million to the other countries whose nationals were killed. To date a formal apology has not been issued by the US for the tragedy.

Some believe the Lockerbie bombing, carried out six months later in December 1988, was masterminded by Iranians in revenge for the Airbus tragedy, although a Libyan man was convicted and jailed in 2001.

Going against an informal convention to discontinue flight numbers associated with aviation tragedies, Iran Air continues to use flight number IR655 on the route as a memorial to the victims.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Accept, apologise, punish the guilty

[An article about the MH17 tragedy published on the website of Newsweek magazine is yet another that makes an analogy to Pan Am 103 and Lockerbie. Unlike most others from American sources, it does refer to IR655 and the USS Vincennes.  The article reads in part:]

Just six months ago Putin’s international standing was at an all-time high as he presided over the Sochi Olympics and released imprisoned oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Pussy Riot group. But it began its precipitous descent with Russia’s occupation of Crimea – and now, Putin’s name and reputation have become inextricably linked to the tragedy of MH17. This is his Lockerbie moment.

“Politics is about ­control of the imaginary – and [MH17] plane has become symbolic of something deeper,” says Mark Galeotti of New York University. “It is becoming very difficult not to regard Putin’s Russia as essentially an aggressive, subversive and destabilising nation after this.”

It didn’t have to be like this. Unlike Muammar Gadaffi, whose agents ­knowingly blew up Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, killing 243 people, Putin didn’t order separatist militiamen near Donetsk to murder civilians. The evidence points to a tragic mistake by ill-trained and ill-disciplined militias to whom Russia rashly supplied deadly surface to air missiles. But the Kremlin didn’t have to own this disaster. Putin could have disowned the Donetsk rebel group responsible, agreed to cooperate with international investigators, call world leaders to share their shock and commitment to bring the guilty to justice.

Instead, he did the opposite. In the days after the tragedy the Kremlin obfuscated the facts, blamed Kiev and facilitated the Donetsk separatists’ hasty cover-up operations – from attempting to hide bodies that had tell-tale shrapnel wounds to hurriedly evacuating the BUK rocket launcher back across the border (a not-so-secret operation snapped by the camera phones of local residents and Kiev’s spies). Putin himself appeared on national television – twice – vaguely blaming the whole incident on Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for not making peace with the rebels, a convoluted version of a child’s “he made me do it” argument. As a result of Putin’s KGB-trained instinct to deny everything, the tragedy of MH17 is, in the eyes of much of the world, now seen as Putin’s doing. (...)

But Putin has allowed himself to become a hostage to bad stuff happening, which is just bad politics. Cover-ups rarely work ­, as the US found in the aftermath of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, for instance, or the shooting down of an Iranian civilian airliner over the Persian Gulf in 1988, just five months before Lockerbie, the smartest way to deal with such disasters is to accept, apologise, punish the guilty. 

[“Accept”: ‘The following day, the Pentagon held a news conference on the incident. After originally having flatly denied Iran's version of the event, saying that it had shot down an F-14 fighter and not a civilian aircraft, the State Department (after a review of the evidence) admitted the downing of Iran Air 655. It was claimed that the plane had "strayed too close to two US Navy warships that were engaged in a battle with Iranian gunboats" and, according to the spokesman, that the "proper defensive action" was taken (in part) because the "suspect aircraft was outside the prescribed commercial air corridor" (Washington Post).

‘That it "strayed" from its normal, scheduled flight path is factually incorrect. And so was the claim that it was heading right for the ship and "descending" toward it — it was ascending. Another "error" was the contention that it took place in international waters (it did not, a fact only later admitted by the government). Incorrect maps were used when Congress was briefed on the incident.’

“Apologise”: ‘The US government issued notes of regret for the loss of human lives and in 1996 paid reparations to settle a suit brought in the International Court of Justice regarding the incident, but the United States never released an apology or acknowledgment of wrongdoing. George H W Bush, the vice president of the United States at the time commented on the incident during a presidential campaign function (2 Aug 1988): "I will never apologize for the United States — I don't care what the facts are... I'm not an apologize-for-America kind of guy."’

“Punish the guilty”: ‘Despite the mistakes made in the downing of the plane, the men of the Vincennes were awarded Combat Action Ribbons for completion of their tours in a combat zone. Lustig, the air-warfare coordinator, received the Navy Commendation Medal. In 1990, The Washington Post listed Lustig's awards as one being for his entire tour from 1984 to 1988 and the other for his actions relating to the surface engagement with Iranian gunboats. In 1990, Rogers was awarded the Legion of Merit "for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as commanding officer ... from April 1987 to May 1989." The award was given for his service as the commanding officer of the Vincennes from April 1987 to May 1989, and the citation made no mention of the downing of Iran Air 655.’]