Iran Supreme Leader Calls for Real War Against the US – 05/07/1988

Tuesday 5 July 1988

“We must all be prepared for a real war and go to the war fronts and fight against America and its lackeys.” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, called for “a real war” against the United States in revenge for the downing of an Iranian airliner by an American warship. Few at the time could have understood the meaning of Khomeini’s words.


According to Dilip Hiro, the Iranian airbus disaster was the culmination of Washington’s diplomatic, military and economic campaign in support of Saddam Hussein. Hiro stated that Washington had coordinated Iraqi military operations against Teheran.[1]

Roger Charles, a retired US Marines lieutenant colonel, agreed. Charles told ABC that the United States was an active military participant on the side of the Iraqis, fighting the Iranians.[2]

The Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, widely seen as Iran’s next supreme leader said a war against the United States could not be confined to “slogans and propaganda campaigns.” A real war must be waged “on the political, economic, cultural and military fronts.”[3]

“The criminal United States should know that the unlawfully shed blood in the disaster will be avenged in the same blood-spattered sky over the Persian Gulf,” said Teheran radio. Iran’s President, Hojatolislam Ali Khamenei, called US President Ronald Reagan and his administration “criminals and murderers.”

The Iranian foreign minister, Ali Akbar Velayati, called the downing of the airliner an atrocity and urged UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to have his organization condemn the United States as the perpetrator.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Mahallati, told US media that the atrocity had been premeditated.

The US Air Force Military Airlift issued a warning to its civilian contractors: “We believe that Iran will strike back in a tit-for-tat fashion: mass casualties for mass casualties. We believe Europe is a likely target for a retaliatory attack. This is due primarily to the large concentration of Americans and the established infrastructures in place throughout Europe.”


1. Dilip Hiro, The Longest War, Routledge 1991, 211f, 239f.

2. “The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War,” July 1, 1992, ABC News, Ted Koppel.

3. Montazeri fell out with Khomeini — shortly before his 1989 death — for having complained openly and forcefully about powers attributed to unelected clerics.


The Downing of Flight 655; Military Errors: The Snafu as History,” R. W. Apple Jr., The New York Times, July 5, 1988.

As Iran Mourns, Khomeini Calls for ‘War’ on U.S. ,” Youssef M. Ibrahim, The New York Times, July 5, 1988.

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