Amir Assadolahi, a pilot of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) affiliated Mahan Air, acknowledged he had transferred Qassem Soleimani, the eliminated commander of the IRGC Quds Force, with “seven tons” of “banned cargo,” meaning weapons, along with 200 passengers on board to Syria in June 2013.
In his interview with the state-run Young Journalists Club news agency, while confirming Soleimani personally oversaw the transfer of weapons to Syria, Assadolahi said: “While flying over Baghdad, U.S. forces forced us to land at Baghdad airport. During Iraqi and American inspection, I asked Haji Qassem to wear the uniform of our flight engineer [so no one would recognize him]. They were after him. When the Americans could not find him and left, the Iraqis asked to check our cargo. It was a very tough moment. We went to see the cargo, I opened my wallet and showed the dollars to the Iraqi inspector, he winked at me, took the dollars and left.”
The Iranian regime entered the Syrian conflict and has been fighting and wasting the Iranian people’s resources to prop up Bashar-al Assad’s regime. The Iranian Resistance has repeatedly said how the regime has been using all means to export terrorism. In this case, using an airplane with over 200 passengers to carry military cargo and a terrorist is tantamount to using human shields and is banned under international law and regulations.
In a special report in November 2017, the National Council of Resistance of Iran wrote: “Iranian airline companies play an important role in Iran’s interference in the countries of the region, including the transfer of personnel and logistics for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and proxy militias….The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran has completed a study on this company, which quickly became one of the largest companies in Iran. The study demonstrates that while Mahan is ostensibly a private company, it has had extensive relationships with the highest-ranking government officials since the company’s first days of operation. Both the launch and the expansion of the company has involved widespread use of government facilities. Among the most significant findings of the report was that Mahan Air Corporation does not merely cooperate with the IRGC and the Qods Force, but is wholly owned and controlled by them.”
The report continued: “Since 2011, there has been an upsurge in Iranian meddling in Syria, following that country’s uprising against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. Consequently, Mahan has been providing the Qods Force with the means to transfer foreign personnel and agents to Syria, along with equipment for the Syrian regime and for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Trips by IRGC and Qods Force commanders to Damascus are handled by Mahan Airlines.”
The United States Department of State in October 2011 designated Mahan Air for “providing financial, material, and technological support to the IRGC. It has since repeatedly engaged, or attempted to engage, in activities or transactions that pose a risk of materially contributing to the proliferation of WMD or their means of delivery by shipping UN-restricted missile and nuclear items to Iran.”
In another report on January 24, 2019, the State Department wrote: “The United States sanctioned Iranian commercial airline Mahan Air in 2011 for providing financial, material, and technological support to the IRGC-QF. Mahan has facilitated the IRGC-QF’s military operations in Syria by conducting hundreds of flights from Tehran to Damascus since 2012. Every country that permits Mahan Air to fly to its airports should understand Mahan Air’s history of violating international civil aviation norms, and every company supporting Mahan should know they run the risk of incurring U.S. sanctions.”