Jan 6, 2020 - World

Rouhani invokes U.S. downing of Iran Air Flight 655 in response to Trump

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Photo: Iranian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded Monday on Twitter to President Trump's weekend warning that the U.S. military would target 52 Iranian sites — a reference to the number of American hostages taken during the Iran hostage crisis — if the country retaliates for the killing of Qasem Soleimani.

"Those who refer to the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655 Never threaten the Iranian nation."

The context: A U.S. Navy cruiser shot down Iran Air Flight 655, a civilian airliner, over the Persian Gulf in 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew members on board.

  • The Iranian government has generally believed that Washington, by downing Flight 655, had sided with Iraq in the the Iran-Iraq War, according to the Washington Post.
  • Washington has maintained that the vessel responsible for the attack mistook the airliner for a military aircraft after it failed to respond and identify itself on military and civilian radio frequencies.

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