US warns against flying over Per­sian Gulf

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY JON GAMBRELL

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMI­RATES

Com­mer­cial air­lin­ers flying over the Per­sian Gulf risk be­ing tar­geted by “mis­cal­cu­la­tion or misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion” from the Ira­nian mil­i­tary amid height­ened ten­sions be­tween the Is­lamic Repub­lic and the U.S., Amer­i­can diplo­mats warned Satur­day, even as both Wash­ing­ton and Tehran say they don’t seek war.

The warn­ing re­layed by

U.S. diplo­matic posts from the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, though dis­missed by Iran, un­der­scored the risks the cur­rent ten­sions pose to a re­gion crit­i­cal to both global air travel and trade. Oil tankers al­legedly have faced sab­o­tage and Ye­men rebel drones at­tacked a cru­cial Saudi oil pipeline over the last week.

Mean­while on Satur­day, Iraqi of­fi­cials said ExxonMo­bil Corp. be­gan evac­u­at­ing staff from Basra, and the is­land na­tion of Bahrain or­dered its ci­ti­zens out of Iraq and Iran over “the re­cent es­ca­la­tions and threats.”

How­ever, U.S. of­fi­cials have yet to pub­licly ex­plain the threats they per­ceive com­ing from Iran, some two weeks af­ter the White House or­dered an air­craft car­rier and B-52s bombers into the re­gion. The U.S. also has or­dered nonessen­tial staff out of its diplo­matic posts in Iraq.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump since has sought to soften his tone on Iran. Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif also stressed Satur­day that Iran is “not seek­ing war,” com­ments seem­ingly con­tra­dicted by the head of the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard, who de­clared an on­go­ing “in­tel­li­gence war” be­tween the na­tions.

This all takes root in

Trump’s de­ci­sion last year to with­draw the U.S. from the 2015 nu­clear ac­cord be­tween Iran and world pow­ers and im­pose widereach­ing sanc­tions. Iran just an­nounced it would be­gin back­ing away from terms of the deal, set­ting a 60-day dead­line for Europe to come up with new terms or it would be­gin en­rich­ing ura­nium closer to weapons-grade lev­els. Tehran long has in­sisted it does not seek nu­clear weapons, though the West fears its pro­gram could al­low it to build atomic bombs.

The or­der re­layed Satur­day by U.S. diplo­mats in Kuwait and the UAE came from an FAA No­tice to Air­men pub­lished late Thurs­day in the U.S. It said that all com­mer­cial air­craft flying over the waters of the Per­sian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman needed to be aware of Iran’s fighter jets and weaponry.

“Although Iran likely has no in­ten­tion to tar­get civil air­craft, the pres­ence of mul­ti­ple long-range, ad­vanced anti-air­craft­ca­pable weapons in a tense en­vi­ron­ment poses a pos­si­ble risk of mis­cal­cu­la­tion or misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion, es­pe­cially dur­ing pe­ri­ods of height­ened po­lit­i­cal ten­sion and rhetoric,” the warn­ing said.

It also said air­craft could ex­pe­ri­ence in­ter­fer­ence with its nav­i­ga­tion in­stru­ments and com­mu­ni­ca­tions jam­ming “with lit­tle to no warn­ing.”

The warn­ing comes 30 years af­ter the USS Vin­cennes mis­took an Iran

Air com­mer­cial jet­liner for an Ira­nian F-14, shoot­ing it down and killing all 290 peo­ple on­board. That was not lost on Iran’s mis­sion to the United Na­tions, which dis­missed the warn­ing as Amer­ica’s “psy­cho­log­i­cal war against Iran.”

“There has never been a threat or risk to civil­ian air traf­fic in the Per­sian Gulf from Iran,” mis­sion spokesman Alireza Miryousefi told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “One can­not for­get the fact that it was in­deed a U.S. war­ship that wan­tonly tar­geted an Ira­nian civil­ian pas­sen­ger air­craft. … The U.S. has yet to apol­o­gize for that act of ter­ror­ism against Ira­nian civil­ians.”

JEFF SHERMAN US Navy via AP

Lt. Ni­cholas Miller and Lt. Sean Ryan launch an F-18 Su­per Hor­net from the USS Abra­ham Lin­coln air­craft car­rier Thurs­day in the Ara­bian Sea. On Satur­day, U.S. diplo­mats warned of risks to com­mer­cial air­lin­ers in the re­gion.

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