The airline was Iran’s first privately owned airline and started flying in 1992.  Starting with two TU-154s, the airline added and A310s.  As the airline grew it undertook some interesting fleet changes.  It managed to add aircraft all through the sanctions period.  This action did not happen quietly.

In 2013, the US treasury added to sanctions in place against Mahan Air.  Yet the airline’s fleet grew.  As the fleet grew, so did its network. (Mahan’s route network in December 2014)

The most peculiar aspect of all this is that while the airline was blacklisted it still acquired aircraft and grew its network. Nothing slowed the airline.  A 2015 story by The Hill highlighted this weird state of affairs.  Moreover, the Iranians knew about this.  So did other nations where the airline is flying.  Mahan Air was flying into Europe because there were no sanctions from the EU.

But the long arm of the US legal system persists in making claims.  In February the US government warned EU nations about Mahan Air’s flights.  The US has even blacklisted some people for supporting Mahan Air.  But the airline keeps flying and plans to add more EU destinations this year.

Last week the US Office of Foreign Assets Control published a license for “US persons” to trade in aircraft and parts with Iran.  Mahan Air is excluded from this of course. Mahan Air being sanctioned under part 561 (Iran Financial Sanctions Regulations) and part 594 (Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations).

So how does Mahan Air get away with its aircraft not being impounded? Why do EU nations ignore the US threat? Does the US Treasury really mean it when it says: “Regarding Mahan Air specifically, we are doing this by working with our partners to prevent Mahan Air from acquiring aircraft and aircraft parts and software, preventing the opening of new routes and working to get existing routes canceled.”  It is obvious that Mahan Air’s A340s need spares and maintenance .  Yet nothing is happening and Mahan Air continues to grow. Indeed, in January the Iranians threatened to sue the US about Mahan’s aircraft.

Things don’t quite add up.  US government credibility is implausible, and looks impotent.   Meanwhile the US Congress fumes.

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