United States says interception of Iranian aircraft was to ensure safety of American forces in Syria

These outlaws must be stopped before disaster - Iranian Zarif

The U.S. Central Central Command confirmed on Friday, that an F-15 fighter approached the Iranian plane to verify its identity and to ensure the security of U.S. forces at the Al-Tanf base in Syria.

“An American F-15 fighter carried out a routine air mission in the coalition forces area in Tanf area in Syria and approached the Mahan civilian plane tonight at a safe distance of about 1,000 meters, so that it could be seen,” the command said in a statement.

On Thursday, Passengers on plane were injured over Syria after the pilot changed altitude to avoid collision with a US fighter jet, according to Iranian media, but the United States military said its F-15 kept a safe distance.

The Iranian plane  belonging to Mahan Air was heading from Tehran to Beirut when the pilot staged a safety manoeuver, in an incident that Iran's Foreign Ministry said would be investigated.

 Iran has since dismissed the US explanation as "unjustified and unconvincing".

"The harassment of a passenger plane on the territory of a third country is a clear violation of aviation security and freedom of civilian aircraft," Laya Joneydi, vice president for legal affairs, was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

Also on Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States of risking a disaster.

Zarif said the U.S. illegality and lawlessness upon lawlessness must stop against the Islamic State of Iran.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed that it would study the details of the incident regarding the interception of the Mahan aircraft, vowing to take political and legal measures against the U.S. after the investigation.

The pilot of the Iranian passenger plane, which is affiliated with Mahan, confirmed that the military aircraft that intercepted the plane were American.

“The plane that dangerously approached us and posed a threat to us was American because I contacted the fighter pilots and identified themselves as Americans,” the pilot told Iranian television.

Beirut International Airport also announced that a number of passengers were wounded on the Iranian plane that landed at the airport after being subjected to air harassment by an unidentified war plane.

 the head of the Beirut airport told Reuters News Agency that all the passengers left the plane, some with minor injuries. 

The plane arrived back in Tehran in the early hours of Friday, the Fars news agency reported.

This is the latest incident in the series of tensions between Tehran and Washington, with ties deteriorating since 2018 when US President Donald Trump exited Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers and reimposed regime of sanctions that have battered Iran's economy which Tehran has variously described as economic terrorism against the Persians.

US and Israel have long accused Mahan Air of transporting weapons to Iran-backed armed groups in Syria which may have been one of the reasons why the US chose to take a closer look at the aircraft to check whether there were passengers on board.

Also, the US imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran's foreign ministry then sent a protest note  to the Swiss Embassy, which represents US interests in Iran, warning that if any accident happens on the plane's return flight to Tehran, it will be the US's responsibility.

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