August 17, 2015 | Policy Brief

Russia’s Airline Aeroflot Carried Qassem Soleimani to Moscow and Back

August 17, 2015 | Policy Brief

Russia’s Airline Aeroflot Carried Qassem Soleimani to Moscow and Back

Fox News reported that on July 24, General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force (IRGC-QF), travelled to Moscow, met Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and discussed possible future arms deals with Russian officials. The visit violates both UN and U.S. sanctions. Though the Obama administration has filed a complaint with the United Nations Security Council, no action has been taken yet against the carrier and the aircrafts Soleimani used for his travels. Flight data suggests that Soleimani flew to Moscow on Russian airline Aeroflot.

Quoting unnamed Western intelligence sources, Fox’s Jennifer Griffin said that, “Soleimani arrived in Moscow on Air Iran flight #5130, a commercial flight from Tehran … on July 24. He left Moscow the following Sunday, July 26 … on flight #5120.”

Both Flight Radar 24 and Plane Finder confirm these Iran Air flight numbers for the Tehran-Moscow route are operated by Aeroflot, which is 51-percent owned by the Russian government and a member of the Sky Team global alliance, led by America’s Delta Airlines.

Based on available information from (see screenshots below), Soleimani allegedly flew on Aeroflot Airbus 320 registration number VQ-BSL to Moscow and Aeroflot Airbus 320 VQ-BST on his way back.

Aeroflot flight SU513 (Iran Air Codeshare 5130) IKA-SVO(Tehran-Moscow),July 24, 2015 

Secretary of State, John Kerry has raised concerns over Soleimani’s visit to Moscow with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The administration has also referred the matter to the United Nations Security Council as a potential violation of UN Resolution 1747.

Aeroflot flight SU512 (Iran Air Codeshare 5120) SVO-IKA (Moscow-Tehran), July 26, 2015

The administration has the mandate to escalate this matter further. Qassem Soleimani is designated under Executive Orders 13224 and 13572. EO 13224 authorizes the U.S. Department of Treasury to block assets owned by persons known to “assist in, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, such acts of terrorism or those persons listed.”

EO 13572, targeting human rights abusers, authorizes Treasury to similarly target those who are “making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.”

Provided that Soleimani’s presence on these flights can be proven, EO 13224 and EO 13572 authorize Treasury to designate both Aeroflot and the two aircraft that carried him. It is a step the administration should contemplate to ensure the credibility of the remaining U.S. sanctions after the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, particularly as many others are slated to be removed.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Find him on Twitter: @EOttolenghi


Iran Iran Human Rights Iran Sanctions