On July 3, 1988, at the end of the Iran–Iraq War, American warships clashed with Iranian patrol boats in the Persian Gulf. The Iranian Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Republic retaliated, and American helicopters opened fire on one of their boats. The Iranians responded by shooting down the helicopter.
Later that day, Iran Air Flight 655 departed Bandar Abbas Airport for Dubai at 5:10 pm with 290 people on board: 156 men, 53 women, 57 children aged 2 to 12, and 8 babies aged 2 or less. In addition to Iranians, there were also passengers from India, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Italy, and the United Arab Emirates.
The American warship USS Vincennes had departed San Diego on April 25, 1988, and was in Iranian waters. As the Iranian airliner was climbing to 14,000 feet, the USS Vincennes, under the command of Captain William Rogers, fired two surface-to-air missiles at the airliner. The airliner disappeared from radar, and smoke and fire appeared in the sky. The control tower at Bandar Abbas Airport asked Dubai Airport about the flight, but they said they had no information.
Immediately after the event, American officials claimed they had shot down an Iranian F-14 fighter jet. Later, they claimed the airliner had been flying out of its assigned civilian air corridor and that they had sent seven warning radio messages to the plane but received no answer.
Four years later, the New York Times published an article that revealed that the American warship had been in Iranian waters, not international waters, at the time of the incident. This revelation led to accusations that the Pentagon had covered up the incident.
“For no clear reason, the Vincennes approached Iranian waters, equipped with advanced artillery and long-range missiles,” said Admiral William Crowe, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan. “This shows that the warship was prepared for a bad action.”
The Iranian airliner, an Airbus A300B2-203, was very different from an F-14 fighter jet in terms of dimensions, shape, size, and flying capabilities. Moreover, the American warship could easily have listened to the pilot’s conversations and understood that it was a passenger flight.
Despite the claims, the Vincennes’ warnings did not reach the airliner, nor were they received by any other civilian source.
Iran expressed its complaint over the shooting down to the international community.
Iran’s View arranged an interview with Vahid Ahmadi, who was then an MP, to get more information about the issue. He was also an advisor to the Foreign Minister and is now a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee in the parliament.
Mr. Ahmadi believes that the shooting down of the Iranian passenger plane was related to the conditions of the Iran–Iraq War. “Iran had the upper hand at that time, and Saddam was under a lot of pressure,” he said. “Therefore, the US wanted to open another front against Iran and help Saddam.”
“The United States intended to distract Iran from the Iraqi war front and warn Iran that America might militarily enter the war,” Mr. Ahmadi added. He called the reasons given by the Americans a “lie” and a “justification” and insisted that there is evidence that shows it was a planned and intentional action. He called the event a “black page” in the history of the United States, and said that it alone invalidates all of their claims to human rights.
He also referred to the ineffective statement issued by the United Nations Security Council and the verdict by the International Court of Justice, which only sentenced the United States to pay $95 million in compensation.
“Iran is still pursuing the case, and we expect the new president to put it on his agenda until the military leaders on the warship are sentenced and the United States officially apologizes to the Iranian people,” Mr. Ahmadi said.