November 2, 2016 | Quoted by Vivian Salama - Associated Press

US, Europe at odds over Revolutionary Guard-backed airline

An Iranian airline, backed by the country's notorious Revolutionary Guard and used to ferry weapons and fighters to support Syria's government, has acquired rights to fly commercial routes in more than a dozen European and Asian countries in spite of U.S. terror-related sanctions.

The agreement Iran and six other world powers signed last year ended some of the sanctions that had punished and isolated Iran for its nuclear program. But sanctions for ballistic missile research, terrorism, human rights violations and money laundering remain in place.

Mahan Air, the country's second-largest carrier, is under terror-related sanctions. The U.S. has accused the company of providing “transportation, funds transfers and personnel travel services” to the Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Forces, flying them and weapons to Syria to train Hezbollah militants, Syrian army troops and others.

“By letting Mahan in, the Europeans are forgoing a critical pressure tool they have in their arsenal of nonmilitary coercive measures to pressure Iran and (Syrian President Bashar) Assad,” said Emanuele Ottolenghi, an Iran expert at the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance at the bipartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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