Germany bans Mahan Air of Iran, citing 'security'

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Germany on Monday banned Iranian airline Mahan Air from flying in the European nation, with officials saying this is for security reasons.

A Mahan jet at a German airport in 2013.
Image: Gerard van der Schaaf via Flickr.

Mahan has been the subject of United States sanctions since 2011. "The airline transports weapons and fighters across the Middle East, supporting the Iranian regime's destructive ambitions around the region," according to a tweet on Monday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The US has been encouraging allies such as Germany to restrict Mahan's operations. The Federal Aviation Office of Germany has suspended Mahan's permit, German officials said.

Rudaw reports Mahan's director, Hamid Arabnejad Khanooki, has alleged ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran. The airline is privately owned. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, said it is possible "that this airline carries out transports to Germany that affect our security concerns," and the ban followed discussions within Europe and with the US. US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell alleged, by way of example, Mahan had "contributed to incredible human suffering, violence, and political instability felt across the world," by supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States government claims Mahan flies fighters and cargo to Syria in support of al-Assad. The airline was Iran's first in private hands. It has Iran's largest fleet, and is still operating in Europe with destinations including Spain, Greece, France, and Italy. It was founded in 1992.

File photo of the Federal Aviation Office's HQ.
Image: Igge.

The move comes after the European Union sanctioned Iran earlier in the month over alleged Revolutionary Guards assassination plots against dissidents in nations including Denmark, France, and the Netherlands. With the US encouraging commercial entities to cease trading in Iran, German firms including Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Telekom, Daimler, and Siemens have announced plans to pull out of the Middle Eastern nation.

Last year US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with Iran, which had been agreed under former US President Barack Obama. Other signatories to the treaty include Germany, which has been taking a lead in efforts by the remaining signatories to keep the deal operational. Reuters reported on Monday a German government source, whom they did not name, said the ban on Mahan Air is not part of any broader plan to increase sanctions on Iran.