Mahan Air’s Secret Flights: Iran’s Means of Moving Weapons, Fighters to Syria

Tehran using commercial airline to transport troops and arms to support the Assad regime in Syria, German newspaper reports

While an Iranian airline is organizing regular flights to the German cities of Dusseldorf and Munich, the German newspaper Bild has reported that it is also transporting fighters from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon to fight alongside Assad’s forces in Syria, as Germany and Europe refuse to implement the sanctions the US has imposed on Tehran.

The newspaper reported that the private company, Mahan Air, which has a fleet of 54 carriers and is a favorite means of travel for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, has been using its planes daily since August 2015 to move ammunition and weapons, as well as fighters from Iraq, Lebanon and Iran to Syria to support Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The company meanwhile organizes flights to various European cities including weekly flights from Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran to Munich and Dusseldorf, transporting hundreds of passengers in its European-designed aircraft.

Secret Trips

While the company arranges many flights to the Middle East and Europe, it does not have a single official flight to Syria. But the website Flightradar24, which allows tracking of flights carried out by planes with the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast devices enabled, shows different data about the company’s flights. The website reveals that the airline sends flights between Iran and Syria almost daily.

The newspaper noted that Beirut is one of the bastions of the militia Hezbollah, which has thousands of fighters fighting alongside Assad’s regime in Syria, including near Aleppo, and that Mahan Air appeared to have transported them. Another, more dangerous example of these secret trips is one in which a plane appeared out of nowhere above Aleppo on November 13.

The plane was an Airbus A310 model, which the company also uses in its trips to Germany. It activated its tracking device after reaching an altitude of 9,000 meters several kilometers south of Aleppo. The paper speculated that the pilot wanted to gain altitude after taking off from Aleppo before appearing as any normal airplane bound for Lattakia.

The newspaper said it was not just information from tracking devices that revealed the secret trips Iran was carrying out to help the Assad regime, but that Syrian activists had continuously recorded video clips of them above northern Syria.

It said that activists had managed on May 9 to record a clear video of an Airbus A310 belonging to the Iranian company flying above the town of Haritan north of Aleppo.

Disregarding Sanctions

The newspaper said that the US Treasury Department put Mahan Air on the sanctions list in 2011 as a known supporter of terrorist groups, and then strengthened the imposed sanctions again in March 2016 to include its backers abroad.

Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that Europe was ignoring the American sanctions on the Mahan planes, claiming there was not enough evidence to prove that they were transporting terrorists and weapons.

This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.

 

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