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    US sanctions Iran Air for doing Pasdaran’s bidding

    The Islamic Republic charged that the United States was harming the Iranian people by trying to ground Iran Air.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry complained that Washington had no right to punish Russian citizens for using Iran Air. But the sanctions would not punish Russian citizens or any other non-Americans.

    The Asian Law Caucus said the new sanctions would forbid any American citizen or green card holder from buying Iran Air tickets. The Iran Times asked the US Treasury Department if that was true, but received no response before press deadline.

    The new sanctions announced last Thursday also apply to Iran Air Tours, a subsidiary of Iran Air that flies many domestic routes, Tidewater Middle East Co., the Iranian firm that operates seven ports in Iran, Mehr-e Eqtesad, an investment firm the Treasury Department said was controlled by the Pasdaran, the Behnam Shahriyari Trading Co. and its owner, Behnam Shahriyari, for operating on behalf of the Pasdaran.

    The Treasury Department said Iran Air had been carrying Pasdar military equipment since 2006. It said, “Rockets or missiles have been transported via Iran Air passenger aircraft and [Pasdar] officers occasionally take control over Iran Air flights carrying special [Pasdar]-related cargo. [The Pasdaran are] also are known to disguise and manifest such shipments as medicine and generic spare parts, and [Pasdar] officers have discouraged Iran Air pilots from inspecting potentially dangerous … cargo being carried aboard a commercial Iran Air aircraft, including to Syria.”

    Iran Air CEO Farhad Parvaresh condemned the sanctions and said the airline operates completely within the framework of international aviation agreements. “Iran’s national airline is a member of the International Air Transport Association and it is committed to international aviation law,” he said. However, his remarks didn’t address the charges by the US Treasury, which were mainly against the Pasdaran.

    Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast called the sanctions “inhumane and illegal.” He didn’t explain what that meant.

    Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Khazaee, wrote a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon saying, “The main objective of these measures is to deprive the Iranian people of their basic rights such as transportation.” The sanctions are only applicable to Americans, however.

    Iran Air has actually been under sanctions for decades. The United States has not allowed Boeing to sell any aircraft or parts to Iran since the revolution. Since more than 10 percent of the parts of Airbus planes built in Europe are American, the United States is also able to ban Airbus sales to Iran. Airbus could theoretically buy more non-American parts, but it has not.

    The new sanctions provide for the freezing of any Iran Air assets found in the United States. There are not likely to be any such assets, however, as Iran Air has not been able to operate in the United States for three decades. The previous sanctions barred American citizens and green card holders from doing business with Iran Air, but they exempted travel-related payments, so people could buy Iran Air tickets. The announcement of the new sanctions last week did not make clear whether that exemption continues.

    In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Friday saying the new sanctions on Iran Air “raise serious questions” because they may impact Russian companies. “Such actions, based on an extra-territorial use of US law, potentially create a situation where Russian businesses cooperating with these [Iranian] companies could be affected,” the statement said. But the sanctions, which have been around for years, cannot have any impact on Russian businesses. The Russian statement begged questions about the professionalism of the Russian Foreign Ministry if it could make such a basic error.

    The Russians were confusing different sanctions. Sanctions under the Iran Sanctions Act passed by Congress can be applied to foreign firms that invest in the Iranian oil and gas industry or sell refined products to Iran. But the sanctions applied to Iran Air last week come under a different law, one related to weapons of mass destruction and missiles that applies only to American residents and the company sanctioned.

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