Gerardo Milman, an Argentine lawmaker, told Iran International that Iranians aboard a Venezuelan plane held in Buenos Aires planned “attacks on human targets.”
Speaking Thursday in Spanish to anchor Fardad Farahzad, Milman, who has pressed for information over the incident, disputed explanations given by both the Argentinian and Iranian governments.
Contrary to Iran’s claim June 13 that the plane was not owned by an Iranian company and that any Iranians aboard were instructors, Milman said the pilot was “a senior Qods (Quds) official, especially a member of the Ministry of Intelligence,” apparently suggesting he was a member of the Qods brigade, the extraterritorial arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
Milman said the pilot, who had “fought in the war [1980-88] against Iraq, together with the current Minister of the Interior [Ahmad] Vahidi,” was a shareholder in the Iranian airline Mahan Air, which has been sanctioned by the US Treasury. Milman said the co-pilot, who was “even more problematic,” was using a false name.
Anibal Fernandez, Argentina’s security minister, said June 11 the government had immobilized at Ezeiza airport (Buenos Aires) a “Venezuelan plane sanctioned by the United States and withheld the passport of five Iranian crew members.”
While US sanctions have no force in Argentinian law, any supplier might be wary of punitive US action over supplying fuel. According to the Spanish-language website Infobae, the plane, minus the five Iranians, was subsequently denied permission to fly to Uruguay to refuel.
The impounded Venezuelan plane orginally belonging to Iran
The plane had arrived in Argentina, from Mexico June 6, carrying automotive parts, but according to Argentinian media, an inspection found five Iranians aboard who, unlike at least 12 Venezuelans, were not on the passenger manifest. The Iranians’ passports were impounded – presumably on the grounds they were violating immigration rules – and they were assigned a hotel.
‘Photos of missiles’
Milman criticized Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez, security ministry and intelligence chief for trying to portray “the Venezuelan-Iranian intelligence operation …[as] an air training operation.” He said action over immigration offenses ignored that the pilot’s phone contained “photos of missiles, aircrafts aimed at Israel, photos of war material aimed at confronting Israel in order to commit terrorist acts in the state of Israel.”
Milman told Iran International that the Argentinian government had aligned with “the Caracas-Tehran-Moscow regime” and alleged a “Venezuelan-Iranian intelligence operation that includes several elements in the region.” This included Querétaro, in Mexico, and the cooperation between Caracas and Tehran over manufacturing-armed drones. Milman alleged that the governor of a state in Venezuela where drones were made was now ambassador to Argentina.
“The truth is that everything has a very accurate correlation,” the member of parliament said. “My idea is that Iran seeks to consolidate with the Argentine government this trilogy with the regime of Caracas and with the regime of Teheran.” Milman suggested the plane provided “absolute proof that financing cells operate with respect to the Hezbollah situation…[and] a very well-known clan, which is the Barakat clan…[with] many members arrested for collaborating with international terrorism.”
Argentina in 2019 designated Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant organization, as a ‘terrorist group,’ citing its alleged role in two bombings, including one of a Jewish community center in 1994. Both Iran and Hezbollah deny involvement in the attack. The Barakat clan, originally from Lebanon, is based in the poorly policed mountainous region bestriding Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.