Iranian carrier ‘purchased UK plane’ to fly elite troops to Syria
An Iranian airline last week bought a UK-made plane for the delivery of troops and arms to the Syrian regime, according to a report in the International Business Times, in a violation of the nuclear accord signed between the Islamic Republic and world powers in July.
According to a report on the U.S.-based news site, Mahan Air – one of Iran’s largest carriers with a destination list which includes London, Moscow and Tokyo – also flies troops from the elite Quds Force of the powerful Revolutionary Guard to the Syrian capital Damascus.
The deal struck in Vienna earlier this year by Iran and six world powers including the U.S. struck will see a lifting of punishing economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
But the purchase of commercial jets for military purposes is against the terms of the agreement, according to senior officials and lawyers quoted by the site.
The U.S. has known about the activities of Mahan Air as far back as 2011, when the treasury department announced that the carrier would be sanctioned for its support to the Quds Force.
“Mahan Air’s close coordination with the Quds Force – secretly ferrying operatives, weapons and funds on its flights – reveals yet another facet of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps extensive infiltration of Iran’s commercial sector to facilitate its support for terrorism,” David Cohen, the U.S. under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said then a press briefing in Washington.
The site reported that two Mahan Air flights they had traced from the capital Tehran and Abadan, another city, took off at “unspecified times and without publicizing their destinations.”
After travelling over Syria, the flights land in Damascus, and then sometimes then travel to the Northeastern city of al-Hasakah, a known hotspot for fighting between Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants and regime forces and allies.
While Mahan Air is privately-owned, Tehran’s high level of control over the country’s economy meant that the government “most likely knew about the transaction” and gave the go-ahead, the site reported.
A State Department official told the site that it knew about the sale and was investigating the transaction.