By Amir Basiri
Mainstream media is rife with news about Iran sealing multibillion-dollar deals with Airbus and Boeing to purchase more than 100 passenger planes.
Unfortunately, Iran is no ordinary buyer. It’s a mistake for anyone to rejoice over such a deal or boast about it improving economies and creating jobs. This is a regime designated as the leading state sponsor of terrorism.
The U.S. Treasury Department has identified Iranian commercial airlines as linked to the regime’s lethal and nonstop support for terrorism. With its numerous campaigns in support of Shiite militias and dictators, Iran has actively used its aging air fleet to shuttle hired mercenaries and arms to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon.
Iran Air and Iran Air Tours were both designated as terrorist-related in 2011. According to the U.S. Treasury Department these airlines are known to “disguise and manifest weapons shipments as medicine and generic spare parts” to Syria. They are known to airlift missiles and rocket components.
Mahan Air, an Iranian airline in close relations with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and its Quds Force (QF), is known to provide airlifts to IRGC-QF personnel flown between Iran, Syria, and Iraq for military training.
“Mahan Air’s close coordination with the IRGC-QF–secretly ferrying operatives, weapons and funds on its flights–reveals yet another facet of the IRGC’s extensive infiltration of Iran’s commercial sector to facilitate its support for terrorism,” emphasized David S. Cohen, former U.S. Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “Following the revelation about the IRGC-QF’s use of the international financial system to fund its murder-for-hire plot, today’s action highlights further the undeniable risks of doing business with Iran.”
Mahan Air eased the covert transfer of IRGC-QF officers by bypassing normal security procedures, such as excluding specific data on flight manifests in order to eliminate records of the IRGC-QF travel.
Eyebrows are raised as European and Asian countries provide legitimacy to IRGC-linked Mahan Air by permitting flight rights to relevant commercial routes. Furthermore, one can also argue that the revenue from these flights are used to fuel Iran’s support for extremist ends.
“By letting Mahan in, the Europeans are forgoing a critical pressure tool they have in their arsenal of non-military coercive measures to pressure Iran and Assad,” explained Emanuele Ottolenghi of the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance at the bipartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Representatives in the U.S. Congress from both sides of the aisle have been very clear in their positions about the nature Iran’s air fleet.
“Instead of more actions to ground these planes,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), adding, “the White House agreed to lift an Interpol notice.”
In the same hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) demanded answers over how the Obama administration intended to ground “the airline of choice for the [IRGC] and Quds Force to go into Syria and kill people.”
Analysts have cited concerns over Iran’s airlines continuing “to ferry materiel to fighters in Syria.” A notable case in September involved an Iran Air flight scheduled to depart Tehran for Damascus which made a suspicious stop in Abadan — an Iranian port city located around 960 miles off route that also acts as a major IRGC logistics hub.
Here are further suspicious flights reported by Forbes:
“On June 9, an Iran Air aircraft flew to Damascus from Abadan using the Tehran-Damascus flight number, and on June 8 and 15 from Tehran while using the now-defunct Najaf-Tehran number. Since then, the airline’s flights to Damascus have multiplied in number and frequency, with the most recent one leaving from Yazd but broadcasting a Tehran-Damascus flight number, on July 29.”
The main Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has a history of unveiling Iran’s support for terrorism and exporting extremism across the region. Mahan Air provides “multiple daily flights from Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, and Abadan to Damascus. These flights use Iraqi air space and carry weapons, equipment and Revolutionary Guards for war against the Syrian people. Three daily direct flights from Abadan airport to Damascus is mainly done by Mahan Air,” as explained by a Nov. 12 NCRI statement.
State Department spokesman John Kirby assured that the Obama administration would certainly not neglect Iran’s support of terrorism following the nuclear deal, describing the notion as “completely without merit.” However, no serious action has been taken to this date, other than the Iran Sanctions Act passed by Congress, which U.S. President Barack Obama refused to sign.
By signing the Iran nuclear accord, also known as the JCPOA, Obama set the grounds to delist five of Tehran’s designated airlines despite the knowledge that they also facilitated terrorism through logistical and financial support.
The JCPOA has itself directly given the green light to Iran’s support for Shiite militias across the region, as forecast by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry even prior to the deal.
The atrocities in Aleppo also showed the lack of will in the Obama administration for any meaningful action against Iran. The regime continues to airlift fresh recruits and supplies to Assad’s armed forces, the Lebanese Hizb’allah and the IRGC, all considered staunch U.S. adversaries. This notorious trio is also heavily supporting Assad’s ruthless regime in the near six-year war claiming the lives of half a million people.
The new Airbus/Boeing signings, placing economic interests before those of international security and morality, will most likely pave the path for Iran to further expand its efforts to support terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.
Advocates of these deals may argue Iran will not use planes such to shuttle forces to Syria due to its desperate need to replace its aging fleet. Considering Tehran’s ongoing interest in supporting extremism across the Middle East, it is quite hard to imagine any obstacle can be placed to prevent Iran from continuing its illicit airlifts throughout the region.
Originally posted in American Thinker