As tensions between Iran and the United Sates seemed to be contained in the past two days, U.S. diplomats relayed a warning of being “misidentified” to commercial aviation in the Arabian Gulf region.
The warning which originated from the Federal Aviation Administration underlined the risks the current tensions pose to a region crucial to global air travel. It also came as Lloyd's of London warned of increasing risks to maritime shipping in the region.
The order relayed Saturday by U.S. diplomats in Kuwait and the UAE came from an FAA Notice to Airmen published late Thursday in the U.S. It said that all commercial aircraft flying over the waters of Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman needed to be aware of "heightened military activities and increased political tension."
This presents "an increasing inadvertent risk to U.S. civil aviation operations due to the potential for miscalculation or misidentification," the warning said. It also said aircraft could experience interference with its navigation instruments and communications jamming "with little to no warning."
The Arabian Gulf has become a major gateway for East-West travel in the aviation industry. Flights from East Asia, Australia and India cross the region or make stopovers in the Gulf. Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, home to Emirates, is the world's busiest for international travel, while long-haul carriers Etihad and Qatar Airways also operate here.
So far there have been no reactions from regional airlines and their hubs.
Iranian airlines also extensively fly in the Arabian Gulf airspace although U.S. sanctions have reduced Iranian flights in general.
The warning appeared rooted in what happened 30 years ago after Operation Praying Mantis, a daylong naval battle in the Arabian Gulf between American forces and Iran during the country's long 1980s war with Iraq. On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes chased Iranian speedboats that allegedly opened fire on a helicopter into Iranian territorial waters, then mistook an Iran Air heading to Dubai for an Iranian F-14. The Vincennes fired two missiles at the airplane, killing all aboard the flight.
Meanwhile, Lloyd's Market Association Joint War Committee added the Arabian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the United Arab Emirates on Friday to its list of areas posing higher risk to insurers. It also expanded its list to include the Saudi coast as a risk area.