Several airline companies in Iran are playing a big role in the country’s meddling abroad. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Quds Force (the IRGC’s extra-territorial branch) uses the airlines to transfer personnel and supplies to many of its proxy groups abroad.
These airlines include Iran’s national airline – Iran Air, and Mahan Air Company, Meraj and Caspian Airlines. They have been sanctioned for various reasons including their terrorist activities and for activities related to the proliferation and production of weapons of mass destruction.
Mahan Air operates as a “private” company, but has strong links with many high government officials in the country. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran recently looked into the airline and found out that despite its claims of being a private company, it uses many government facilities. It also discovered that the whole corporation is fully owned and controlled by the IRGC.
The airline has been used a lot for Iran’s meddling in Syria where Iran is propping up Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. Numerous commanders of the IRGC and Quds Force were flown direct to Damascus and supplies were sent to Hezbollah in Lebanon and to Assad and the groups supporting him.
This is one more example of how Iran’s private sector is now non-existent thanks to the government and the IRGC’s control over most of the large corporations in the country. The Iranian regime portrays companies like Mahan Air as private so as not to arouse suspicions about their management.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran complied a report with recommended actions. It advises that the Iranian regime, the IRGC, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and companies affiliated to them including Mahan Air should be denied access to the global banking system because of their participation in activities related to international terrorism.
It also recommends that practical steps are taken so that weapons and personnel cannot be sent abroad. This should involve a ban being placed on Mahan Airlines and sanctions being placed on those with links to it.
The report also highlights that it is absolutely necessary for the Iranian regime to be removed from the countries in which it is meddling, most notably Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
The Iranian economy is in such a big mess and it is difficult to distinguish the “private” companies from the government-run ones. The regime uses “privatisation” to gain control over large companies and it is estimated that over half of the country’s gross domestic product is controlled by the IRGC via various complex networks of companies.
Some organisations are run by the Supreme Leader Khamenei. One such example is the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO) which is a foundation that has assets worth around $95 billion.
The Iranian government supports Mahan Airlines and other such companies, even ones that have been on the receiving end of international sanctions.
As a result of the Iran nuclear, some of the sanctions on Iranian airlines were lifted, but those on Mahan Airlines remained. The company was founded in the early nineties and became the biggest airline company in Iran. Earlier this year, it boasted having 62 airliners compared to Iran Air that has only 47 despite being in business for 74 years. It also is responsible for 15% of international flights from Iran compared to Iran Air which operates about half of this amount.
The company has a complicated web of front companies that helps it get around the sanctions it has been subject to. The NCRI explained: “The charity institute of Movali al-Movvaheddin, registered in 1997 as No. 68 in the Kerman registration department, owns 100% of Mahan Airlines stock. The two main founding members of this institution were Hossein Marashi (Kerman’s then Governor) and Seyyed Yahya Jafari (Kerman’s then Friday prayer Imam). They brought in 15 others, including Hossein Arabnejad, to the institute’s Board of Trustees.”
It then explains that the charity institute grew at an alarming rate, so much so that it is now the shareholder of dozens of major companies in Iran.
Mahan Airlines flies daily to Syria from Tehran, Isfahan, Abadan, Shiraz and Mashhad, and they pass through Iraqi airspace. The flights transport equipment, supplies and personnel to the Syrian civil war.
The NCRI strongly believes that decisive policy is imperative to combat Iran’s belligerence. It also highlights that action must be taken immediately to put a halt to Iran’s warmongering, spread of terrorism and human rights violations. It is very clear that the IRGC has a pivotal role in these activities and it needs to be stopped with sanctioned and other punishments.