Congress Eyes Crackdown On Terror-Tied Iranian Airline Amid Deals with Boeing

Lawmakers urge public report on Iran's use of commercial planes to aid terrorists

An airplane of Mahan Air sits at the tarmac after landing
An airplane of Mahan Air sits at the tarmac after landing / Getty Images
May 4, 2017

Congress is considering new methods to crack down on and expose a state-controlled Iranian airline company that routinely uses commercial flights to ferry weapons and terrorist fighters to regional hotspots, according to a copy of new bipartisan legislation circulating through the Senate and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The legislation comes after U.S. plane manufacturer Boeing has announced plans to move forward with a multi-billion dollar deal with Iran Air, an Iranian state-controlled company that is likely to dole out at least a portion of the new airplanes to Mahan Air, another state-controlled carrier suspected of playing a key role in the country's terrorism operations.

The new legislation, which specifically targets Mahan Air, would require the Trump administration to provide Congress with a list of all airports where the commercial carrier has landed. This information will be used to boost security measures on all planes flying into the United States that may have docked at an airport used by Mahan Air.

The move is being viewed as just the first move by Congress against Mahan and other Iranian airline carriers, which are currently in the process of hammering down multi-billion dollar deals with Boeing and other major plane builders.

Boeing representatives met with a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Hossein Alaei, CEO of Aseman Airlines, who threatened to blow up U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region, raising questions about Boeing's efforts to ink deals with Iranian airlines.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), a chief sponsor of the bill, told the Free Beacon that the Senate is seeking to work alongside President Donald Trump to expose Iran's terrorism industry and put it on notice.

"President Trump has made it clear he will prioritize the safety of Americans at home and abroad where the previous administration failed, and that should make the Iranian government, IRGC, and Mahan Air very nervous," said Cornyn, who is backing the bill along with Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Rob Portman (R, Ohio), Mark Warner (D., Va.), Chris Coons (D., Del.), and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.).

All of these Iranian entities are "complicit in terror attacks across the Middle East, and this is a necessary step to protect the safety of our citizens and expose Mahan for who they truly are," Cornyn said.

Mahan Air has been a chief partner of the IRGC as it works to ferry weapons and personnel to Syria, Yemen, and other regional hotspots. Mahan also has secretly transported top IRGC Quds Forces operatives into and out of Iraq and later lied about the activities.

The new legislation will help expose and restrict these activities by mandating that the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies compile a comprehensive list of all airports where Mahan has docked.

These reports would be submitted through 2020 and include information on what additional security measures can be taken to crack down on all flights into the United States that have originated from an airport where Mahan has a presence. These reports will also be publicly available, according to the legislation.

One senior congressional adviser who works on Iran sanctions efforts told the Free Beacon that lawmakers have become increasingly concerned about Iran's use of commercial airlines to support its terrorism operations.

Boeing's efforts to push forward with deals aimed at massively expanding Iran's fleet of commercial aircraft has pushed Congress to finally put its foot down, according to sources.

"The Obama administration allowed the Europeans to violate a range of our sanctions against Iran, because the Iranians kept complaining they weren't getting rewarded enough for the nuclear deal, and there was only so much the Obama administration could do to get rid of more U.S. sanctions," said the adviser, who would only discuss the issue on background. "One of the places that became really obvious was Europe letting Iranian terror airliners operate in European airports, and Washington looking the other way. Congress has had enough."

Published under: Iran