After Israeli attacks, two Iranian airlines halted flights to Syria

Two Iranian airlines halted flights to Syria after an Israeli airstrike on June 10 temporarily closed Damascus airport, sources told Iran International.

Western intelligence sources said Caspian Air and Qeshm Fars Air have both stopped flying to Syria and the only Iranian airline sending planes is Mahan Air, which was sanctioned by the United States in 2011 for having transported weapons to Iranian proxies at the start of the Syrian civil war. war.

Caspian Air is also sanctioned by the United States for his ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and its Extraterritorial Quds Force (Qods) (IRGC-QF). In 2019, the United States also sanctioned cargo airline Qeshm as part of Mahan Air and provide material support to the IRGC-QF. All three airlines are believed to have been created and owned by the Revolutionary Guards.

According to information received by Iran International, Mahan Air flights have increased by 30% following the suspension of service by the other two companies. Aleppo is the destination of most Mahan flights. According to the same sources, Hamid Arabnejad, the CEO of Mahan Air, during a recent trip to Syria, participated in the inauguration of a new flight to Aleppo airport.

Besides carrying weapons, the sources claimed that Mahan Air also carries contraband goods to Syria without paying taxes or customs duties.

Last November, a hacking group calling itself “Watchful Sons of the Fatherland” in Persian accused Mahan Air of being closely linked to the IRGC-QF and of often issuing fake or falsified air tickets for people with false identities.

The aftermath of an Israeli attack on the Syrian port of Latakia targeting an Iranian arms shipment, December 28, 2021

The group also alleged that Mahan was record its interactions with IRGC-QF under a particular name, which appeared seven thousand times in the company’s records. “We have discovered that Mahan maintains records of his suspicious affairs with QF under the name ‘Hamrah’, and that these affairs are handled by Sardar (General) Golparast.”

The group added that Golparast is also listed as the owner of Qeshm Fars Air which “is a known QF cover company frequently used to transport munitions across the Middle East”, the group said in November.

Israel is known to have conducted operations, including in Iran, to track and prevent the IRGC-QF form from transporting weapons to other countries.

Iran International reported on July 21 that the Israeli Mossad captured and interrogated an IRGC official in Iran, over arms transfers. The man introduced himself as Yadollah Khedmati, the IRGC’s deputy logistics commander and provided information to Mossad on arms transfers before being released.

The wings of the IRGC for transporting weapons

Mahan Air was fully under the control of the IRGC-QF when Qasem Soleimani led the extraterritorial military intelligence unit. There were numerous reports of the airline’s role in arms shipments. Soleimani was killed in a targeted US airstrike in Baghdad in January 2020.

Amir Assadollahi, a Mahan Air pilot, revealed in June 2020 that on one Soleimani occasion in 2013, Soleimani was on a Mahan flight to Syria with 200 passengers and 7 tons of “prohibited cargo” which landed in Baghdad on orders of the Iraqi government. Soleimani asked the pilot to bribe the inspectors and was able to continue the flight to Syria.

Former Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, in a leaked 2021 audio recording, said Soleimani preferred to use official Iran Air flights for his purposes to reduce risk to his operations.

However, it seems that with the continued Israeli airstrikes on Iranian weapons depots in Syria, the IRGC-QF prefers to use Mahan Air more often.

Israel is generally silent about its attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, but in recent months there have been repeated attacks on Iranian weapons depots. The attack on Damascus airport on June 10 was the 15th airstrike in Syria attributed to Israel.

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