Europe finally on board with US on Iran’s terror airline

In 2011, the United States designated Mahan Air as Iran’s ‘terrorist airline.’

As the Treasury designation noted, Mahan Air services the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), providing “transportation, funds transfers and personnel travel services” to the fanatical terrorist arm of the Iranian government. Reporting directly to Ayatollah Khamenei and commanded by Major General Qasem Soleimani, the IRGC-QF is the tip of the spear in exporting the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary terrorist doctrine across the globe.

Mahan Air offers the same suite of services to Hezbollah, another Iranian-sponsored Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), conceived by the regime and founded by the IRGC in 1985. According to Israeli intelligence, “The Iranian Al-Quds Force packs weapons, ammunition and missile technology to Hezbollah in suitcases and puts them on Mahan Air flights. … These planes fly directly to the airport in Lebanon or Damascus and from there the weapons are transferred on the ground to Hezbollah.”

Literally flying in the face of international sanctions against the Assad regime, Mahan Air has also conducted almost daily routes between Tehran and the Syrian cities of Damascus and Latakia.

It has taken an additional eight years for major Western allies to wake up and do something about these realities.

In January 2019, Germany finally pulled the plug on Mahan Air’s Düsseldorf and Munich routes. France followed suit shortly after. And last week, after a battery of letters from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) to the Civil Aviation Authority of Italy (ENAC), to Italian Senators and to Rome Airport, Italy became the third major European nation this year to ban Mahan Air from its airspace.

The German, French and Italian decisions were in large measure provoked by Iran’s stepped-up destabilizing efforts on European soil.

Explaining the ban, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman confirmed, “It cannot be ruled out that this airline carries out transports to Germany that affect our security concerns… This is especially true against the backdrop of terrorist activities, intelligence on terrorist activities from the Iranian side and Iranian entities in Europe in the past.” Germany’s Foreign Minister also noted escalating Iranian intelligence activity in Europe.

As Berlin has now recognized, allowing Mahan Air to land in Europe presents serious security risks that it could no longer ignore.

In 2015 and 2017, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) helped orchestrate the murders of two Iranian-origin Dutch nationals, both inside the Netherlands. In response, the Dutch government snapped, “hostile acts of this kind flagrantly violate the sovereignty of the Netherlands and are unacceptable.”

In June 2018, Iran attempted to bomb an MEK rally in Paris which was attended by former New York Mayor and Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich. An MOIS senior official and two Iranian-origin Belgian nationals were arrested.

Then in November the same year, Denmark thwarted yet another Iranian assassination attempt against the head of the Arab Struggle Movement inside Denmark. An Iranian-origin Norwegian national was arrested.

In barring Mahan Air, Europe is severing the most likely physical pathways for regime operatives to sow their discord across the continent.

However, there remain outliers. Presently, Spain’s El-Prat Airport in Barcelona still allows a permanent Mahan Air route, while Athens also has a ‘seasonal route’. Both the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency (AESA) and the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority have ignored UANI letters urging a ban.

With Italy the latest to comes to its senses, it is final call for Spain and Greece to get on board with their continental cousins and ban Iran’s terror airline, Mahan Air.

About the Author
Daniel Roth is Director of Research at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) in New York. He leads UANI’s business intelligence and corporate engagement efforts.