US warns airliners flying in Persian Gulf of danger amid Iran tensions
search

US warns airliners flying in Persian Gulf of danger amid Iran tensions

Diplomats say planes in region face risk of being ‘misidentified,’ as well as possible interference with navigation and communications equipment

In this May 4, 2014 file photo, an Etihad Airways plane prepares to land at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
In this May 4, 2014 file photo, an Etihad Airways plane prepares to land at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — US diplomats warned Saturday that commercial airliners flying over the wider Persian Gulf faced a risk of being “misidentified” amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran.

The warning relayed by US diplomatic posts from the Federal Aviation Administration underlined the risks the current tensions pose to a region crucial to global air travel. It also served as a grim reminder that 30 years ago, the US mistook an Iranian passenger jet for a warplane in the wake of a naval battle with Tehran, killing all 290 people aboard.

Concerns about a possible conflict have flared since the White House ordered warships and bombers to the region to counter an alleged, unexplained threat from Iran that has seen America order nonessential diplomatic staff out of Iraq. US President Donald Trump since has sought to soften his tone.

Meanwhile London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat reported Saturday that Gulf nations had agreed to allow the US to deploy further naval forces in regional waters to deter Iran from escalating the situation in the Persian Gulf. The newspaper cited unidentified sources with knowledge of the talks.

A recent sabotage operation blamed on Iran targeted four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates, and Iran-aligned rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for a drone attack on a crucial Saudi oil pipeline.

Saudi Arabia directly blamed Iran for the drone assault, and a local newspaper linked to the Al Saud royal family called on Thursday for America to launch “surgical strikes” on Tehran.

In this Jan. 15, 2015, file photo, a Qatar Airways Airbus A350 approaches the gate at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)

This all takes root in Trump’s decision last year to withdraw the US from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching 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.

The order relayed Saturday by US diplomats in Kuwait and the UAE came from an FAA Notice to Airmen published late Thursday in the US. It said that all commercial aircraft flying over the waters of Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman needed to be aware of “heightened military activities and increased political tension.”

This presents “an increasing inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or misidentification,” the warning said. It also said aircraft could experience interference with navigation instruments and communications jamming “with little to no warning.”

In this Wednesday, March 22, 2017 file photo, an Emirates plane taxis to a gate at Dubai International Airport at Dubai International Airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP Photo/Adam Schreck, File)

The Persian Gulf has become a major gateway for East-West travel in the aviation industry. Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, home to Emirates, is the world’s busiest for international travel, while long-haul carriers Etihad and Qatar Airways also operate here.

All three airlines, as well as Oman Air, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday about the warning.

The warning appeared rooted in what happened 30 years ago after Operation Praying Mantis, a daylong naval battle in the Persian Gulf between American forces and Iran during the country’s long 1980s war with Iraq. On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes chased Iranian speedboats that allegedly opened fire on a helicopter into Iranian territorial waters, then mistook an Iran Air heading to Dubai for an Iranian F-14. The Vincennes fired two missiles at the airplane, killing all aboard the flight.

Join us!
A message from the Editor of Times of Israel
David Horovitz

The Times of Israel covers one of the most complicated, and contentious, parts of the world. Determined to keep readers fully informed and enable them to form and flesh out their own opinions, The Times of Israel has gradually established itself as the leading source of independent and fair-minded journalism on Israel, the region and the Jewish world.

We've achieved this by investing ever-greater resources in our journalism while keeping all of the content on our site free.

Unlike many other news sites, we have not put up a paywall. But we would like to invite readers who can afford to do so, and for whom The Times of Israel has become important, to help support our journalism by joining The Times of Israel Community. Join now and for as little as $6 a month you can both help ensure our ongoing investment in quality journalism, and enjoy special status and benefits as a Times of Israel Community member.

Become a member of The Times of Israel Community
read more:
comments