The tragic shooting down of a passenger plane on Wednesday last week, at least the fifth such well-documented instance over the past four decades, is a chilling reminder of the need for detailed international safeguards to manage the sudden, unforeseen consequences of military conflicts. Iran belatedly owned up and said its armed forces accidentally shot down Kiev-bound Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, killing 167 passengers and nine crew. The flight's altitude and direction resembled an enemy target, so the aircraft was targeted unintentionally, the regime said three days later. Offering an apology, it promised to investigate the cause of the incident and made an unspecified number of arrests. Iran pinned the blame on a crisis caused by "US adventurism". Indeed, escalating tensions between Washington and Teheran cannot be divorced from the disaster.
It is contestable, however, whether the tensions date back to the Jan 3 killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani in a US drone strike; or to Iran's reprisal when 22 missiles were launched on US bases in Iraq on the day of the crash; or for that matter, to agitations in the weeks, months or even decades prior. But the focus must be on deriving lessons from the proximate and avoidable set of circumstances that resulted in the needless loss of innocent lives. The decision not to close the international airport as Iran braced itself for possible American retaliation to its missile strikes is jarring. Some analysts suggested, without evidence, that the planes and passengers acted as a shield against a US attack.