An Airbus 340 operated by Mahan Air

South Africa Helps Iran Skirt US Aviation Embargoes

Friday, 12/22/2023

A global conflict tracker has revealed how South Africa helped Iran circumvent the United States’ sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s aviation industry.

Aviation expert and author Babak Taghvaee from the Crisis Watch said on X that Iran’s MahanAir, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), received two RJ85 passenger aircraft on Thursday.

“The aircraft are purchased by means of a South African and a Congo-based company and were just transferred to Iran by means of a stop in India,"he said, claiming that two more will be delivered Friday. He also shared aerial maps tracking the two aircraft -- TN-AKO and TN-AKP -- before reaching Chabahar port city in southeastern Iran.

According to an agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Taliban, the RJ85s purchased by Mahan Air, which were transferred from the Indian city of Hyderabad to Chabahar were later sent to Afghanistan, he claimed.

According to Taghvaee, “Every year in December, IRGC-affiliated companies and airlines, including Mahan Air, secretly transfer their illegally purchased aircraft and helicopters to Iran.” “So far, two of these RJ85s with sham Congolese registration codes have been flown to Iran,” he added.

Last December, four Airbus A340s aircraft departed South Africa for Uzbekistan but were diverted to Iran, with the country’s authorities announcing afterwards that they have purchased them.

Iran has suffered from shortages of civilian airliners since the 1990s and used a variety of ways to lease older planes or buy spare parts through intermediaries, but the technical state of its fleet has been deteriorating.

The 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) suspended sanctions on purchases of Western aircraft and Iran began talks to buy new planes from Boeing and Airbus. A few Airbus planes were delivered but the Trump administration never approved the sale of US planes until Washington withdrew from the JCPOA in May 2018.

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