In 1988, a US Navy warship shot down an Iranian passenger plane in the heat of battle

 January 10, 2020

Two days before a Ukrainian passenger plane went down over Tehran in the fog of battle this week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reminded the world not to forget about something eerily similar — the shootdown of an Iran Air jetliner by a US Navy ship in 1988.

Iran Air Flight 655, an Airbus A300 with 290 people on board, was blown from the skies by a missile fired from the guided-missile cruiser USS Vincennes as it flew over the Persian Gulf from Iran to Dubai on July 3, 1988.

Rouhani used that 290 number in a Twitter post on January 6.

“Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655 Never threaten the Iranian nation,” he said in a tweet.

The number 52 refers to the number of sites US President Donald Trump threatened to target in Iran if Tehran retaliated for the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

The general’s death in a US drone strike on January 3 has ramped up tensions and rhetoric between Tehran and Washington. In 1988, the atmosphere in the Gulf was no less intense.

For more than a year, the US Navy had been committed to protecting commercial shipping moving through the Persian Gulf endangered by the so-called “tanker war,” an offshoot of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Iran had been trying to block resupply of Iraq through the waters of the Persian Gulf, laying mines and firing rockets at ships.

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The fog of war showed itself in 1987, when an Iraqi warplane mistook the frigate USS Stark for an Iranian tanker and fired two missiles at it. Thirty-seven US sailors were killed.