Since the killing of Iran’s top General Qasem Soleimani, the Persian airspace has become unsafe for commercial airlines. Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) has been issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), declaring Iran, Iraq and Gulf of Oman as no-fly zones for US aviators.
Moreover, after Iran accepted shooting down a passenger plane in its airspace, which killed all 176 people on board, the global airlines have decided to reroute flights in the Middle East.
In retaliation to Soleimani’s assassination, Iran carried out a number of missile attacks on Iraqi bases housing US troops. Meanwhile, a Ukraine International Airlines flight from Tehran to Kyiv disappeared from the radar within minutes of taking off. The flight crashed on the outskirts of Iran.
Investigators initially believed that there was a mechanical issue with the plane, which coincided with the Iranian attacks. But, later the Iranian authorities said that the plane was shot down accidentally by Iran, calling it a human error.
Global airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Air France, Taiwan’s EVA Air, Lufthansa etc., said they would not use Iran’s airspace due to potential for misidentification for military planes.
Experts argue that Iran could have at least issued a warning before targeting the Ukrainian plane or closed its airspace as a precaution. But none of that happened.
Tensions escalate in the Gulf
2019 has been a year of degrading relationships between Iran, its Gulf neighbors, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Regional tensions surged over a couple of incidents at sea and land between the countries.
On September 3, Iranian oil tanker, Adrian Darya 1 went missing on the radar while sailing close to Syrian shores. Tensions escalated, raising suspicion of oil shipment to Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria.
In the same week, the US State Department said one of its officials bribed the captain of the Iranian tanker with millions of dollars to capture the vessel.
Shortly after, on September 14, the conflict moved from shores to land, as the world’s leading oil processing unit in Saudi Arabia and a key oilfield run by Saudi Aramco were targeted by drones. The fields sustained considerable damage and oil supply was halted for a couple of days.
The attack’s responsibility was claimed by Houthi rebels who are funded by Iran to fight against the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
Iran has pledged to avenge Gen Soleimani’s death by US forces in Iraq, fostering the odds of world war III.
Mapping the current unrest in the Middle East, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has also urged airlines to avert Iranian airspace, issuing a guideline for airlines to fly at least 25,000 feet or higher over Iran.