- Middle East.Iran admits the "unintended" shooting down of the Ukrainian plane in which 176 people died
Iranian media have reported that a ship accidentally crashed on Sunday afternoon. The Iranian Naval Force has confirmed the event, which occurred in the vicinity of the port of Jask, in the waters of the Gulf of Oman and near the critical strait of Hormuz . In a statement, they explained that 19 Iranian sailors "have been martyred" and another 15 have been wounded by a "hit" by friendly fire, which is under investigation.
Unofficial sources claim that the Konarak, one of the ships that the Pahlevi dynasty bought from the Netherlands before the Revolution, and that was carrying out logistical tasks, was hit by a missile in the course of an exercise testing a new type anti-ship missile. According to them, the Jamaran warship - operated by the Revolutionary Corps - with the Konarak still too close to the floating target it had placed.
It is the second recognized military accident in a few months. Last January, the Revolutionary Guard admitted the shooting down with an anti-aircraft battery of flight PS752, of Ukraine International Airlines, which killed its 176 passengers. The official investigation is still ongoing. Then, also known as 'Sepah' explained that the operator could have mistaken the plane for an incoming missile, on a night of maximum tension with the United States.
The Iranian Naval Force periodically performs exercises in waters near Hormuz, where approximately 20% of the oil consumed in the world circulates . Its geostrategic importance is evidenced by the constant tension peaks that the region registers, particularly that of the Persian Gulf. A month ago, Washington reported that 11 Iranian gliders had made "dangerous harassment maneuvers" there against six US Navy ships belonging to the Fifth Fleet.
In reaction, President Donald Trump assured that he had given orders to "shoot down" any Iranian ship if they "harass our ships at sea." To which the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard, Hussein Salami , responded by ordering "to target any US ship or warship in the Persian Gulf if they harass our vessels." As a consequence, two years after the US withdrawal from the atomic pact with Iran, bilateral tension continues to rise.
All in all, in the midst of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic - which has forced Tehran to reopen the country with forced marches, so as not to harm its damaged economy - the Iranian government has shown timid signs of wanting to reduce friction. Hasan Rohani administration spokesman Ali Rabei said on Sunday that his country is ready for a prisoner exchange with the United States, and that he was waiting for Washington's call.
Exchange of prisoners
"We have announced that we are ready and without preconditions to exchange all the prisoners, and we are ready to discuss this question, but the Americans have not yet responded," said Rabiei, quoted by the local outlet 'Khabaronline'. "We are concerned for the safety and health of the Iranians in prison," added the spokesman. Iran is believed to maintain four American nationals. Iranians say the US has about 20 of its citizens.
One of the candidates to return home is Michael White . The former Navy veteran was arrested in July 2018 while visiting his girlfriend in Iran. He was convicted of insulting the Iranian Supreme Leader and for publishing private information on the Internet. Last March, White was one of the beneficiaries of the release permits issued to thousands of prisoners due to the coronavirus. In his case, his poor health due to cancer was taken into account.
Iran, for its part, has brought to the press the case of a 60-year-old professor and scientist, Sirous Asgari . In late April, 'The Guardian' reported that Asgari had contracted the coronavirus while still being held by the Customs Force, despite the fact that the administration lost all appeals to jail him for secret smuggling and visa fraud . Although Iran has hinted that this time it does not need intermediaries to speak with the United States, a US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has told the newspaper 'The New York Times' that Iran has offered them neither dialogue nor direct dialogue. .
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