US slaps Iranian airline, men with sanctions over assassination plot

US Treasury also put sanctions on five men linked with conspiring to plot the assassination of Saudi envoy to US.

Afp/reuters October 12, 2011

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury on Wednesday said it designated Mahan Air, a commercial Iranian airline, as providing logistical and financial support for Iran's elite forces, which Washington has accused of plotting to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

“Mahan Air’s close coordination with the slamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF)– secretly ferrying operatives, weapons and funds on its flights – reveals yet another facet of the IRGC’s extensive infiltration of Iran’s commercial sector to facilitate its support for terrorism,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.  “Following the revelation about the IRGC-QF’s use of the international financial system to fund its murder-for-hire plot, today’s action highlights further the undeniable risks of doing business with Iran.”

Mahan Air provided travel services to IRGC-QF personnel flown to and from Iran and Syria for military training. Mahan Air also facilitated the covert travel of suspected IRGC-QF officers into and out of Iraq by bypassing normal security procedures and not including information on flight manifests to eliminate records of the IRGC-QF travel.

In addition to the reasons for which Mahan Air is being designated today, Mahan Air also provides transportation services to Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based designated Foreign Terrorist Organization. Mahan Air has transported personnel, weapons and goods on behalf of Hezbollah and omitted from Mahan Air cargo manifests secret weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah.

As a result of the sanctions, US persons are prohibited from engaging in commercial or financial transactions with Mahan Air and any assets it has under US jurisdiction are frozen.

On Tuesday, a court trial of an Iranian origin, naturalised US citizen started in which he was charged with conspiracy to murder the Saudi envoy to the US in collaboration with elements within the Iranian government.

Iran vehemently denied these allegations and even wrote a letter to the UN Secretary General to mark its protest.

Five Iranians also slapped with sanctions

The US Treasury also designated five individuals responsible for arranging the assassination plot on behalf of the IRGC-QF.

Those sanctioned included Manssor Arbabsiar, a naturalized US citizen holding both Iranian and US passports and who acted on behalf of the IRGC-QF to pursue the failed plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador. IRGC-QF commander Qasem Soleimani, Hamed Abdollahi, a senior IRGC-QF official who coordinated aspects of the plot and oversaw the other Qods Force officials directly responsible for coordinating and planning this operation, Abdul Reza Shahlai, an IRGC-QF official who coordinated this operation, and Ali Gholam Shakuri, an IRGC-QF official and deputy to Shahlai, who met with Arbabsiar on several occasions to discuss the assassination and other planned attacks.

Dispelling notions of first strike

On Wednesday, the Pentagon said that in wake of an alleged plot by Iran to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington required a diplomatic and legal response, playing down the possibility of military action.

"The US military has longstanding concerns about Iran's malign influence in the region. But with respect to this case, it is a judicial and diplomatic issue," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporter


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