The United States has issued a formal warning to commercial airliners operating over the broader Gulf region of the risk of being "misidentified" as heightened US-Iran tensions and American warships are positioned in the Persian Gulf.
Embassies in the region reportedly relayed the message issued from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) highlighting the risk of travel in and over the region after a week that's witnessed an alleged "sabotage" attack against four vessels near the vital Strait of Hormuz and threats and counter-threats hurled between Tehran and Washington.
Lloyd's of London has also issued an alert over the increased risk to maritime shipping in the Persian Gulf area.
The FAA's warning specifically said commercial airliners flying over the Persian Gulf could be targeted by "miscalculation or misidentification" even as the White House appeared to soften its tone late in the week.
"Although Iran likely has no intention to target civil aircraft, the presence of multiple long-range, advanced anti-aircraft-capable 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 suggested the possibility than an aircraft's navigation, communications, and electronic systems could be jammed "with little to no warning." According to ABC News:
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.
Iran dismissed the US warning as part of the continuing "psychological war against Iran." Instead a spokesman did call attention to the region's biggest civilian aviation tragedy in history, orchestrated not by Iran, but by the US Navy.
"There has never been a threat or risk to civilian air traffic in the Persian Gulf from Iran," Iranian Mission to the UN mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi told the AP. "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."
In 1988 Iran Air 655 was shot down over Iranian airspace by a reportedly trigger-happy US Navy.
He was referencing Iran Air Flight 655, which while carrying close to 300 people from Tehran to Dubai, was shot down on July 3, 1988 by the the USS Vincennes in the Persian Gulf in what the American commander said was a case of mistaken identity.
The Navy at the time said it mistook the commercial airliner for a Iranian F-14. All 290 people on board died, including over 60 children, in a tragedy which Iranians have never forgotten, but which much of the American public has likely never been informed about.
Thus the United States have the gall to warn against the threat Iran poses to civilian aviation safety is rich with appallingly blind and twisted irony, given the events of 1988.