To confirm the seriousness of the blockading of Iran, a Malaysian travel and tourism agency was sanctioned because it is an agent for the Iranian Mahan Air. The US Treasury Department thus sanctioned the agency placing it on the list of companies that are internationally prohibited to do business with, and it publicized this sanction to intimidate others who interact with it.
What about Mahan Air itself? It has been categorized as a suspicious company for years and blacklisted 10 years ago. After the beginning of American-Iranian negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, pressure on the company decreased and it even managed to keep one of the airplanes that Britain had asked to be returned when it was revealed that the company had bought it using fake invoices to hide the identity of the buyer. Now that sanctions have been re-instated, the siege has been activated and American security and financial authorities reiterated their warning to companies and governments across the world regarding dealing with Mahan Air.
Like other private companies in Iran, Mahan Air is just an arm of the Revolutionary Guards who have been using it for more than 20 years to transport fighters, weapons and carry out secret activities. To avoid being pursued and to camouflage its activity, it was established as a private airlinerAbdulrahman al-Rashed
A tool for the Revolutionary Guards
Like other private companies in Iran, Mahan Air is just an arm of the Revolutionary Guards who have been using it for more than 20 years to transport fighters, weapons and carry out secret activities. To avoid being pursued and to camouflage its activity, it was established as a private airliner owned by a charity organization. With time, it turned out to be an apparatus of the Revolutionary Guards, which became a massive power that controls multiple services and that’s become a state within the state.
The Revolutionary Guards owns oil refineries, banks and factories. Its expansion inside Iran worried other institutions and powers that compete with it within the state. Mahan is only one of its institutions that has played a dirty role in shipping weapons and transporting thousands of fighters from around the region to fight in Syria. Like any other “civilian airliner,” it’s not allowed to transfer weapons or armed men as this violates the agreements signed with other parties like Airbus which has jets that operate within the company’s fleet that has over 40 planes.
Sanctioning the Malaysian travel agency may seem like a small step, but it actually serves as a warning to everyone who works in the aviation sector that they will be sanctioned if they supply the Iranian company with services. This includes selling them spare parts or transporting passengers, even if this is in areas like Malaysia that are far from the Middle East.
In my opinion, activating the economic and financial boycott against Iran is what will expedite the regime’s end unless it understands its situation and backs down and announces its approval of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12 conditions. Pompeo explained his country’s policy on May 12 when he said: “Iran will be forced to make a choice: Either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or squander precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both.”
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The most important two weapons in the boycott are preventing the regime from using the dollar currency in its business dealings, thus making it difficult for Iran to sell its oil or buy what it needs from foreign countries, and pursuing those who buy Iranian oil in the global market and pressuring them not to buy it anymore. This is in addition to refusing to grant them insurances, suspending tanker companies and preventing oil traders from using the dollar currency.
I have heard Iranian friends complain that the situation has become worse than the previous boycott phase as they cannot transfer even a few thousand dollars to their accounts in Iran as a result of this complete prohibition. We are witnessing a bloodless war on Iran and it’s more harmful and dangerous on the regime that’s become incapable of even providing drinking water to its people in several areas across the country.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.