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11 Dec, 2019 14:21

Washington expands sanctions against Iran's largest airline, accusing it of weapons of mass destruction proliferation

Washington expands sanctions against Iran's largest airline, accusing it of weapons of mass destruction proliferation

The US rolled out new sanctions against Iranian companies, including its largest airline Mahan Air, accused of “weapons of mass destruction proliferation” and transportation of lethal aid to Yemen.

The airline, which has been a target of Washington’s restrictions since 2011,  has been repeatedly accused by the US of having deep ties with the Iraninan Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and regularly transporting its troops and hardware around the region.

“The Iranian regime uses its aviation and shipping industries to supply its regional terrorist and militant groups with weapons, directly contributing to the devastating humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen,” US Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.

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This time, the airline was sanctioned under the Executive Oder 13382 which targets “proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters.” It was not immediately clear how exactly the company engaged in such alleged activities.

The allegations that the airline has been proliferating WMDs in some fashion are “ridiculous,” a professor at the University of Tehran, Seyed Mohammad Marandi, says. The new restrictions are yet another attempt to harm the Iranian people, who are the real target of the economic war – despite claims from Washington it only seeks to hit the authorities of the Islamic Republic.

“It’s ridiculous and everyone knows it’s ridiculous. The United States is engaging in economic warfare against Iran and ordinary Iranians,” Marandi told RT. “The Americans have sanctioned Iranian airlines for decades now, and what they want to do is make it more dangerous for people to fly.”

The Treasury sanctioned three general sales agents of Mahan Air, as well as dozens of aircraft belonging to or operated by the airline.

The sanctions might have “very heavy implications” for the airline, which will likely be barred from using airports in countries fearful of secondary sanctions coming from the US, as well as likely causing other problems, former Pentagon official Michael Maloof believes.

“It could affect their ability to get component parts, depending upon the type of an aircraft,” he told RT. “It could be devastating in that respect and affect the safety of passengers. It could ultimately have the effect of shutting down the airline – and maybe that’s what they [the US] want to do.”

Besides the air carrier, the sanctions also targeted an Iranian businessman, Abdolhossein Khedri, and two shipping companies belonging to him. The businessman stands accused of “terrorism support” and partaking in the IRGC “smuggling operations.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move is part of "maximum pressure campaign of sanctions against Iran."

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Mahan Air is the largest privately-owned airline of Iran, boasting a fleet of 55 aircraft. The company operates scheduled flights to over 40 domestic and international destinations. Apart from being known for repeatedly getting into trouble with the US, the company made international headlines this April when it launched the first-ever direct Tehran-Caracas route.

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