Sale of planes to Iran points to crack in Iran sanctions regime

Bloomberg View reports that nine used commercial airliners arrived in Iran to bolster the fleet of Mahan Air.

May 12, 2015 09:40
2 minute read.
Mahan air

Mahan air. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A nuclear deal with Iran has yet to be signed but the sanctions regime against the Islamic Republic appears to be crumbling already. 

Bloomberg View reported on Monday that nine used commercial airliners arrived in Iran to bolster the fleet of Mahan Air.

According to the report, the US government has singled out Mahan Air in the past for "its role in providing weapons and crowd control equipment to the Syrian regime in its brutal suppression of popular unrest," and was sanctioned in 2011 by the US Treasury for supporting Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and its ballistic missile program.

Under an interim agreement signed with Iran in 2013, the prohibition of selling airplane parts to Iran was lifted. 

Officials announced last month that world powers will terminate all sanctions on Iran in exchange for its commitment to cap and roll back its nuclear program after two years of negotiations. 

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the “exact timing” of sanctions relief is still a matter of negotiation. 

Iranian officials have said there will be no deal without the full dismantlement of a sanctions regime that has, since 2009, crippled its economy. 

Last month, US Under Secretary Wendy Sherman said terrorism and human rights related sanctions against Iran would not be lifted even if a nuclear deal was achieved by the June 30 deadline, indicating that Washington was worried by Iran's influence across the Middle East from Iraq to Lebanon and Syria to Yemen.

15 Planes sold to Mahan Air

Abbas Akhoundi, Iran's transportation minister, said earlier this week that 15 planes had been acquired by Iran since February, with nine arriving over the weekend, Bloomberg View reported.

Bloomberg cited Iranian media as saying that the planes used to be part of the Virgin Atlantic fleet and were headed to Mahan Air. 

“Mahan Air’s case shows that US sanctions no longer deter Western companies from doing big business with Iran – even with a company like Mahan Air, which Treasury targeted for its support of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Corps," Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies was quoted by Bloomberg View as saying.

"To preserve the credibility of its sanctions’ regime, the administration must move quickly to punish those companies involved in this blatant breach of US sanctions," Ottolenghi said. "Otherwise," he added, "the argument that sanctions are still largely intact and can always be snapped back in the future loses all credibility."

Reuters and Michael Wilner contributed to this report.

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