US imposes new sanctions on Iran's biggest airline

The US treasury alleges Iranian airline and a shipping network transported lethal aid from Iran to Yemen.

    Mahan Air has previously been blacklisted for alleged support it has provided to the IRGC-QF, Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a Treasury Department statement [File: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]
    Mahan Air has previously been blacklisted for alleged support it has provided to the IRGC-QF, Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a Treasury Department statement [File: Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]

    The United States treasury on Wednesday imposed new sanctions on Iran's biggest airline and its shipping industry, accusing them of transporting lethal aid from Iran to Yemen.

    Washington targeted three general sales agents of Mahan Air over the role the airline has played in weapons of mass destruction proliferation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters.

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    Also blacklisted was an Iranian shipping network the US Treasury said was involved in smuggling lethal aid from Iran to Yemen on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its elite foreign paramilitary and espionage arm, the Quds Force.

    "Today's action against this lethal aid network is yet another example of the U.S. government cutting off all avenues for the delivery of weapons to Houthi rebels," read a statement issued by the US Treasury.

    The new sanctions come just days after a weekend prisoner swap between the US and Iran, a rare act of cooperation since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord with world powers. Since withdrawing, Trump's administration has embarked on a "maximum pressure" campaign that's seen successive rounds of sanctions slapped on Iranian officials and entities.

    The prisoner swap, facilitated by the Swiss government, was viewed as a potential breakthrough between Washington and Tehran following months of escalating tensions.

    Tuesday's round of US sanctions target Iranian businessman Abdolhossein Khedri and his companies Khedri Jahan Darya Co and Maritime Silk Road LLC for alleged shipping operations on behalf of the IRGC-QF.

    Mahan Air has previously been blacklisted for alleged support it has provided to the IRGC-QF, Hezbollah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a Treasury Department statement.

    The treasury also said Wednesday's designations "provide another warning to the international aviation community of the sanctions risk for individuals and entities that choose to maintain commercial relationships with Mahan Air and other designated airlines."

    The treasury sanctions freeze any US assets of those targeted, and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.

    "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," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

    "Aviation and shipping industries should be vigilant and not allow their industries to be exploited by terrorists."

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency