US warns airliners flying over Persian Gulf amid Iran tensions | News | DW | 18.05.2019
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US warns airliners flying over Persian Gulf amid Iran tensions

The US aviation regulator has warned that "military activities" and "political tensions" could put flights at risk. Washington has increased its military presence in the Gulf amid a worsening spat with Iran.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned US airlines flying over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to exercise caution citing the potential for "misidentification." 

The advisory, amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran, is likely to impact air travel to and through the region.

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What the advisory says

  • The FAA warned all commercial aircraft flying over the Gulf region of "heightened military activities and increased political tensions."
  • It said those activities "present an increasing inadvertent risk to US civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or misidentification."
  • Aircraft flying in the area could encounter "inadvertent GPS interference and communications jamming."
  • The interference and jamming "could occur with little to no warning."

Read more: US military flare-up 'would be a godsend to Iran hard-liners'

Map showing Iran, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Oman

US reacts to Iran 'threats'

Two weeks ago, Washington deployed an aircraft carrier group and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf against what it claims is an imminent threat from arch-foe, Iran. US President Donald Trump has also ordered nonessential diplomatic staff out of neighboring Iraq, citing threats from Iranian-backed Iraqi armed groups.

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Tehran warns of US 'psychological warfare'

Last weekend, Tehran was blamed for sabotage attacks on four Saudi oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). But Iran said Washington was engaging in "psychological warfare," before warning it could "easily" hit US ships too.

Stepping up the rhetoric, a deputy from Iran's Revolutionary Guard has said that any armed conflict with the US would affect the global energy market. Iran has long threatened to shut off the nearby Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of all oil traded at sea passes.

Read more: Could Iran really close the Strait of Hormuz?

Failed nuclear deal 

The latest tensions all take root in Trump's decision last year to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers and impose wide-reaching sanctions. Iran recently gave Europe a 60-day deadline to come up with new terms, or it would begin enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels.

Read more: EU backs Iran nuclear deal as Pompeo visits

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Major aviation gateway

The region has become a vital connection point for the global aviation industry. Dubai International Airport in the UAE is the world's busiest for international travel. Popular long-haul carriers Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways operate from Gulf air hubs.

As well as the risk to airlines, insurer Lloyd's of London has warned of increasing risks to maritime shipping in the region from the tensions.

Flashback to Iran Air shoot down 

The latest advisory brought back memories of the 1988 accidental shooting down by the US Navy of an Iran Air passenger plane at the height of the Iran-Iraq war. The jetliner, which was flying from Tehran to Dubai, was mistaken for an Iranian F-14 jet fighter.

Two missiles fired at the plane from the USS Vincennes killed all 290 people on board.

mm/jlw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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