On February 25, 2017, the Iranian reformist website Amad News reported, citing a source in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), that the IRGC is using civilian passenger jets operated by the Iranian airline Mahan Air to transfer weapons to Syria and Yemen and also to bring back the bodies of fallen fighters as well as injured fighters requiring treatment.
“A knowledgeable source in the IRGC provided Amad News with photos showing that this Iranian airline [Mahan Air] operates flights to Syria and Yemen on which it transports dead and injured Iranians, Syrians, and Yemenis back to Iran. The photos clearly show that the seats and floor of the airliner are covered with plastic sheeting so that no evidence of the injured [fighters’ presence] is left behind.
“In October 2016, a knowledgeable source at the U.S. Treasury Department told AP that the U.S. was trying to convince the E.U. to cooperate with American steps to disrupt Mahan Air’s financial flows. Five years ago, America leveled sanctions on Mahan Air due to its close ties to the IRGC and allegations that it was transferring weapons to Syria and Yemen, but thus far, the E.U. has not complied with these sanctions.
“This knowledgeable source at the IRGC told the Amad News reporter that ‘Mahan [Air] flights to Damascus in Syria and Sana’a in Yemen are loaded with numerous pallets of weapons that are stowed in the [cargo] hold and sent to [combat] zones. He said that one of these airliners, whose cargo hold was packed with weapons, attempted to land at Sana’a but was threatened by two Saudi bombers, and that due to the bombing of the Sana’a airport, it was unable to unload the military cargo in question.’ It seems that this military source is referring to an event that took place on May 3, 2015, when two Saudi bombers escorted an Iranian airliner and prevented it from landing in Yemen by bombing the Sana’a airport. Iran claimed the airliner was loaded with aid including food and drugs, but this senior military source said it was actually transporting weapons for the Houthis.
“This IRGC military source [also] said that a claim made last year, that [IRGC Qods Force Commander] Qassem Soleimani had been on that plane, was untrue and that Soleimani had not been not on board… [According to the source:] ‘Last year, one of these airliners transported regular passengers [as well as] military forces and ammo from Iran to Syria, and on its way back to Iran, it brought dead and injured Iranians, Syrians, Afghanis, and Pakistanis for treatment or burial in Iran.’ He added: ‘On the return trip from Syria, these airliners carry people in Zone C, which is in the rear of the plane and the regular passengers cannot see it. They disembark via the rear door and occupy a separate part [of the plane] from the regular passengers. These are the same people Iran trains in armed combat and guerilla warfare at IRGC bases. In fact, the IRGC commanders use the regular passengers on Mahan Air flights as a cover to transfer weapons, ammo, and [fighters] trained [to wage] guerrilla warfare in the region.”
Source » memri