US cracks down on Chinese firm working with Iranian terror airline

The U.S. sanctioned a Chinese company providing services to Iran’s Mahan Air, which ferried arms to Hezbollah and brought illegal nuclear items to Tehran.

By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department sanctioned a Chinese firm called Shanghai Saint Logistics Limited (SSLL) for providing support to Mahan Air, an Iranian airline that plays a key role in the Islamic Republic’s terror apparatus.

“China is one of the rapidly dwindling number of countries that welcomes Mahan Air, which ferries weapons and terrorists around the world for the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an official statement, adding, “Such cooperation has consequences.”

Pompeo identified SLL as “a PRC-based company that provides general sales agent services for the Specially Designated Global Terrorist Iranian airline.”

The U.S. sanctioned Mahan Air in 2011 for providing material support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force (IRGC-QF), an organization that was eventually designated a terror group, and delivering weapons and personnel to Hezbollah. The airline was again sanctioned in 2019 under “weapons of mass destruction authority for shipping United Nations-restricted missile and nuclear items to Iran.”

In 2019, Germany and France also banned Mahan Air.

The company’s history of illegal activities includes transporting fighters to Syria to help brutal dictator Bashar Assad quash anti-regime forces, “contribut[ing] to mass atrocities and displacement of civilians,” according to a U.S. Treasury Department report.

At the beginning of May, Mahan Air was outed in a BBC investigation for spreading the coronavirus in the Middle East. Specifically, Mahan Air continued flights from Iran after bans were imposed in February, flying to China on numerous occasions.

“Our investigation can reveal that 157 flights were made after February 5, and Iran must have given Mahan Air permission to breach its own flight ban with China,” the BBC reported.

Mahan Air also flew to Syria, Iraq and Lebanon during this time frame as well.

In his statement Tuesday, Pompeo noted that “the Iranian regime turned to Mahan Air to facilitate shipments to Venezuela to support the illegitimate former Maduro regime and its desperate attempts to boost energy production, which had fallen due to its own gross mismanagement.”

Pompeo added that Mahan Air “appears to be carrying gold from Venezuela’s vaults back to Iran, depriving the Venezuelan people of resources needed to rebuild their economy.”

Referring to both Iran and Venezuela, Pompeo commented that “authoritarian regimes are more interested in their own survival than the needs of their people.”

Pompeo concluded, “The United States is pleased that over the last two years, governments and companies across Europe, the Middle East, and Asia have wisely severed ties with Mahan Air. This designation serves as another reminder that companies still providing services for Mahan Air – in the PRC or anywhere else – risk potential U.S. sanctions.