by Ari Lieberman
Enabling terror and and mayhem throughout the region.
The Jerusalem Post, citing the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, reports that Iran used a Boeing commercial airliner to secretly transport offensive military hardware to Russia. According to Welt am Sonntag, two Iranian airplanes, including a Boeing commercial airliner, flew directly from Iran to the Russian occupied Khmeimim air base in Syria where the military hardware was unloaded onto trucks.
From Khmeimim, the trucks made their way to the Syrian port Tartus where they were off loaded onto a ship bound for the Russian Black Sea port city of Novorossiysk. The paper notes that the military hardware was sent to Russia for “service maintenance.” Welt am Sonntag also posted satellite imagery clearly showing an Iranian Boeing commercial airliner, purchased by the Iranians before the Shah’s overthrow, parked on the tarmac at Khmeimim.
Khmeimim airbase is Russia’s most important airbase in Syria and has been used by the Russian air force to conduct offensive operations against anti-regime forces. It has also been used by the Iranians to clandestinely transport military equipment to Hezbollah and other Iranian proxy forces. The most recent revelation demonstrates that Iran is using Khmeimim as a transit point for shipment of weapon systems to Russia that are in need of upgrade or maintenance.
Welt am Sonntag did not specify what type of offensive weapons were involved in this particular transaction but it did note it was in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. UNSCR 2231 calls upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” The cargo was likely ballistic missiles or their components.
Iran has flagrantly defied UNSCR 2231 by engaging in multiple ICBM test-fires and launches. The surreptitious nature of this particular undertaking was likely designed to obfuscate Russia’s role in disregarding a UNSC resolution, and one that it had a hand in formulating.
The use of an Iranian Boeing commercial airliner to transport Iranian military hardware, and particularly offensive military hardware that violates a UNSC resolution, does not bode well for Boeing’s efforts to conduct business with the Iranians. Following the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran deal, two Iranian airline companies expressed interest in purchasing over 100 Boeing commercial airliners.
Iran Air placed an order for 80 planes. The deal is reportedly worth $16.6 billion. A second Iranian airline, Aseman Airlines, requested 30 737 MAX aircraft with purchase rights for an additional 30. That deal is reportedly worth $3 billion. Iran Air also placed an order with Boeing’s European competitor, Airbus, for purchase of 112 aircraft worth a reported $25 billion.
Both Boeing and Airbus require United States Treasury Department approval before the planes can be sold to Iran. Though Airbus is manufactured in Europe, it also requires Treasury’s approval because at least 10 percent of the airplanes’ components are of American origin.
Despite the JCPOA, Congress has demonstrated that it is in no mood for Iranian monkey business and recently passed legislation imposing additional sanctions on Iran aimed at punishing the Islamic Republic for its repeated ballistic missile transgressions, nefarious procurement efforts of dual use technology and support for terrorist groups. Moreover, despite certifying that Iran was in technical compliance with the JCPOA, President Trump has explicitly stated that Iran is not in compliance with the spirit of the accord.
Naturally, Boeing and Airbus want to consummate the lucrative deals. According to Boeing, the deal will provide 18,000 jobs for American workers. But those opposed to the deal correctly argue that in the Islamic Republic, there is no division between Iranian civilian institutions such as commercial airline companies, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Civilian infrastructure deemed useful to the IRGC has either been absorbed or appropriated by the Islamic Republic’s terror arm. The sighting of a Boeing commercial airliner parked on the tarmac of Russia’s most important military airbase in Syria, and its use in clandestinely transporting military contraband, represents no clearer proof of this fact.
The Iranian air force has been plagued with a series of major accidents – more than 200 in the last quarter-century – resulting in thousands of fatalities including senior IRGC officials. Sanctions against Iran have hurt its ability to safely transport men and material. With the purchase of new Boeings and Airbus commercial airliners, Iran will be able to discard its aging relics in favor of a fleet of modern Western aircraft. While some of these aircraft will be used for commercial purposes, there is absolutely no doubt that the IRGC will employ these dual use platforms to spread additional terror and mayhem throughout the region.
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