Amid simmering tensions between Yerevan and Baku, a new report has shed light on how Iran is making the best use of ties with Armenia to act against Israel.
Israel’s Alma, an institute focused on threats to Israel, released a report Wednesday elaborating on how Armenia functions as a transit point in the Islamic Republic’s air corridor route to Syria and Lebanon.
The report said Iran exploits Armenia not only to subvert Azerbaijan – an ally of Israel – but also to facilitate the Islamic Republic’s delivery of military equipment to Syria and then to Lebanon, underlining that “the Iranian effort in both arenas works against Israel.”
The Israeli institute pointed out that Iran supports Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, and that Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) operate in the area while tensions are high and may flare up again in the near future. “Iran is acting against Azerbaijan on multiple fronts, with the IRGC’s Quds Force conducting operations in asymmetric warfare, information warfare, and transferring weapons and military equipment to Armenia.”
Referring to the late-August Israeli air attack on Aleppo International Airport – the third one this year, Alma said that Aleppo area, home to about 60,000 Armenians, is “a geographical anchor within the Iranian corridor to Syria, and the Aleppo airport serves as one of the entry gates of the aerial route as part of the weapons corridor from Iran to Syria and Lebanon.”
However, the report failed to note that after more than a decade of civil war, most Armenians who are Christians have fled from the city the city.
The report also mentioned Mehdi Sobhani, Iran’s former envoy to Syria who left his position in March to become the regime’s ambassador to Armenia. “The Iranian ambassador to Syria and Lebanon is normally a senior IRGC officer in charge of coordinating Iranian activity with Hezbollah and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, rather than a diplomat appointed by the Iranian Foreign Ministry,” Alma said, claiming that the selection of Sobhani as the Iranian envoy to Yerevan reflects “the Revolutionary Guards’ high regard for Armenia.”
Alma referred to an earlier report released in December 2022 about the role of Iranian airline Mahan Air -- including its passenger aircraft -- in arms transfers from Iran to Syria and Lebanon on behalf of the IRGC’s Quds Force. It explained that after Iranians airlines were exposed as carriers of arms and forces for the IRGC, Armenian airline Flight Travel LLC was created in 2018 “as a front for Mahan Air’s Armenian headquarters.”
The US Treasury Department sanctioned Flight Travel LLC for aiding Mahan Air in transporting Shiite militia operatives from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Syria, the report underlined, claiming that “These aircraft most certainly carried not only militia operatives but also military equipment and weapons.”
“Ma’raj (Meraj), Qeshm Fares, Pouya Air, and Iran Air are all Iranian airlines that operate within the Iranian corridor and are linked to the IRGC’s activities using cargo and passenger planes," the report said, adding that they are all sanctioned by the US.
According to Alma’s investigation, three Armenian airlines and one Iranian are still operating between Iran and Armenia. “The deployment of Armenian planes could thwart intelligence surveillance of Iranian activity by making it more difficult to cover their tracks,” it said. Iran Air Tour – a subsidiary of Iran Air -- and Syrian airline Cham Wings play an important role in supporting the Iranian effort for the transfer of materiel and militias to Syria.