By Jonathan Davis
The Federal Aviation Administration issued a NOTAM — Notice to Airmen — instructing U.S. commercial pilots to avoid airspace over Iran and Iraq just a few hours before a Ukrainian airliner was shot reportedly shot down by the Iranian military.
“Our NOTAMs were published roughly three hours before the accident,” an FAA spokesman confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon Thursday in a move that potentially saved American lives.
The order detailed “flight restrictions that prohibit U.S. civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran, and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.”
“The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East,” the NOTAM said. “We continue coordinating with our national security partners and sharing information with U.S. air carriers and foreign civil aviation authorities.”
‘Officially,’ the Ukrainian airliner only crashed due to mechanical issues, but reports on Thursday said U.S. officials believe the plane was accidentally shot down by Iran using a Russian-made air defense missile system.
The FAA official would not “speculate on what effect [the notice] might have had,” one senior congressional official who works on airline issues told the Free Beacon that the order “may well have saved American lives.”
“Iran is not a normal country, and they regularly act in reckless and unprofessional ways,” said the congressional source, who was not authorized to speak on record. “The FAA showed vigilance and competence in publishing the NOTAMs when they did, and they may well have saved American lives.”
The Trump administration has hit Iran with new sanctions following events in the region this week and last. Specifically, the administration put the new sanctions in place in response to Iran’s targeting of two military bases in Iraq where U.S. forces were stationed.
The U.S. and Iraqi governments were notified in advance of the strike, but American military officials have said the missile attack was intended to inflict damage and even cause deaths.
The Washington Times reported:
Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said President Trump signed an executive order authorizing sanctions against people trading with certain sectors of the Iranian economy.
The new sanctions also target Iran’s steel and iron industries, and eight senior Iranian officials involved in Tuesday’s missile strikes.
Trump has, for now, chosen not to retaliate for the missile attack, and that’s probably a good idea for now. But without question, the Iranians understand this president well: He’s not going to take Iranian targeting of Americans lying down any longer.