In the aftermath of the downing of a Malaysian jetliner over Ukraine yesterday, news organizations were quick to reference Korean Airlines Flight 007, shot down by a then-Soviet Union fighter jet over disputed land in September 1983.
Not mentioned quite as often, however, was the time the United States shot down a commercial jetliner.
The U.S. military brought down Iran Air Flight 655 in July 1988. Two-hundred-and-ninety innocent people died.
While on a mission in support of Saddam Hussein, the USS Vincennes exchanged fire with smaller Iranian gunboats. In the heat of the battle, the Vincennes apparently mistook an Airbus A300 for an Iranian fighter jet.
The Washington Post, in its 25th anniversary last year, theorized that the disaster helped end the Iran-Iraq war because Iran thought — and apparently still thinks — that it wasn’t an accident.
That belief, along with Iraq’s increased use of chemical weapons against Iran, led Tehran to accept a United Nations cease-fire two months later. But it also helped cement a view in Iran, still common among hard-liners in the government, that the United States is absolutely committed to the destruction of the Islamic Republic and will stop at almost nothing to accomplish this. It is, as Time’s Michael Crowley points out in an important piece, one of several reasons that Iran has a hard time believing it can trust the United States to ever stop short of its complete destruction.