US switches to air piracy in the Middle East


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Submitted by InfoBrics, authored by Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro…

Last Thursday, July 23, two American fighters carried out hostile maneuvers against an Iranian civil aircraft at an extremely short distance on the stretch between Beirut and Tehran, in Syrian airspace. Several people were injured. Much more than a mere “mistake”, the American attitude reveals a real military strategy.

The pilot of the Iranian aircraft – flight 1152 of the company Mahan Air – said that, while traveling through Syrian airspace, he had to perform sudden maneuvers to avoid collision with the fighters that approached violently, consequently injuring several passengers. The Iranian pilot claims to have then contacted the American pilots to warn them and ask to keep a safe distance. However, the fighter pilots only reported that they were American military personnel and ignored him, continuing with the maneuvers. The travelers reported that the American fighter was “literally glued” to the Iranian aircraft and the maneuver was so abrupt that they were “thrown” from their seats.

The case generated strong national indignation in Iran, acquiring great repercussion throughout the country. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyed Abbas Mousavi said the United States would be responsible for any incident with the plane. In addition, he said that Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, informed the UN’s secretary general, Antonio Guterres, about what had happened. In the same vein, spokesman for the Guardians of the Iranian Constitution, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, classified the American action as terrorist and announced that the Iranian government will take appropriate action.

Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US Central Command, commented on the case, saying that American fighters only performed a standard visual inspection from a “safe distance”, which does not seem to match the incident data. The purpose of the inspection, according to Urban, is to ensure the safety of Americans in the coalition forces in the Al Tanf garrison, an American military base near Syria’s borders with Iraq and Jordan, whose aim, according to the Americans, is to train local anti-ISIS fights – however, some national security experts argue that the base is aimed at spying on Iran and avoiding Iranian influence on the region.

In fact, American aircrafts, especially the F-15E Strike Eagles (the same one involved in the incident), based in Jordan, routinely patrol the area for the strategic purpose of keeping away or fighting enemy foreign aircraft and require all planes, even commercials, identify themselves as they pass. What happened with the Iranian aircraft, however, does not correspond to a simple “visual inspection”, since at no time did American fighters contact the civil aircraft to request identification, on the contrary, the communication came from the Iranian aircraft itself, precisely because it was under violent interception.

Iran therefore dismissed the United States’ explanation and classified it as unjustified and unconvincing. “The harassment of a passenger plane on the territory of a third country is a clear violation of aviation security and freedom of civilian aircraft,” said Laya Joneydi, vice president of the Iranian government for legal affairs, according to Iranian media.

At no time the US government apologized or formally lamented the victims who were injured in the incident, showing that American forces in the Middle East must continue carrying out hostile maneuvers without any restrictions. We can relate this increase in aerial violence to the American naval military decay. Recently, maritime tensions between Americans and Iranians have been rising in the Persian Gulf, with an increased Iranian presence in the region through military incursions against American vessels.

Violence through the air can be understood as a strategic choice in view of the impossibility of facing Iran by sea or by land. However, it is not strategic for American interests to face Iranian forces head-on for aerial combat – instead, they invest in piracy tactics in conflict areas. The choice of the location for the maneuvers seems meticulously planned: an area where Washington will always claim “jurisdiction” because of its right to protect the military base. This will probably not be the only incident and soon new episodes will be reported.

Iran has acted correctly in submitting the case to the UN and international law must be applied promptly to punish the American attitude. The fact that American fighters did not contact the Iranian plane previously constitutes a serious violation of international aviation standards and international humanitarian law itself, since it has put the lives of innocent civilians at risk. As long as the UN response is not announced, it is up to Iran to strengthen a defense system against American air piracy, in order to avoid new incidents.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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