November 9, 2015 | Quote

Blacklisted Iranian Airline Continues To Acquire Aircraft, Transport Weapons To Syria

Senior U.S. officials told International Business Times they are investigating the purchase of a U.K.-manufactured aircraft by one of Iran’s airlines. Because the jet has an American-made engine, it is subject to U.S. export laws. The Iranians planned to use the plane to deliver soldiers and weapons to Syria in support of the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad.

Even if the U.S. penalizes the sellers of the aircraft, it is unclear whether these kind of transactions can be stopped in the future, experts said.

The latest deal marks the second time in five months that the Iranian airline, Mahan Air, one of the country’s largest domestic and international carriers, has purchased aircraft to expand its Tehran-based fleet, despite being blacklisted by the U.S. since 2008. The transaction underscores the airline’s intention to expand the company through new subsidiaries.

As the airline expands, analysts said, the U.S. is struggling to keep up. The Commerce and Treasury departments have implemented measures to prevent third parties from selling aircraft to Mahan.

The U.S. first moved against Mahan back in 2008, forcing an aircraft seller — Bali Aviation — to pay a large fine.

Over the years, the Commerce Department has intercepted several third parties attempting to sell to Mahan Air. Still, the department is unable to stop every transaction. Some analysts said that’s because it is in the U.S. interest to look the other way.


“The impression is, the minute the U.S. began its direct negotiations with Iran in Oman in late 2012, the number, intensity and profile of designations against Iran entered by the U.S. government declined,” said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank that is critical of American diplomacy with Iran. “The appetite for going after Iranian networks went away. There was a reluctance by the U.S. administration to target Iranian companies and a reluctantance to go after intermediaries that have been working with Mahan.”

Ottolenghi said all the institutions that service Mahan should also be penalized. Some of those include high-profile American companies.


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