If you were Tehran, you’d have a lot of incentives these days to simply ignore the terms of the “landmark” P5+1 nuclear deal on the way to cementing your regional influence.
For starters, preserving the Assad government in Syria takes precedence over almost all other concerns so it’s really immaterial whether the Iranian ground incursion in support of Syrian forces is compatible with the nuclear agreement or not. That is, making sure that the Shiite crescent remains intact is of the utmost importance and if protecting Assad and Hezbollah means putting troops in Syria and enraging the US, then so be it.
On top of that, Moscow’s involvement in the conflict has effectively given Tehran the superpower stamp of approval to do whatever it pleases. It’s now clear that no matter what Washington says, Moscow is going to stand with the Ayatollah and that means Iran effectively has a Security Council seat. This, we contend, helps to explain why Iran was “allowed” to test fire a new ballistic missile last month (something which clearly violates the spirit if not the letter of the nuclear deal).
Finally, the IRGC’s influence among Iraqi politicians and military personnel is doing wonders for what amounts to an effort on The Kremlin’s part to muscle Washington out of the country.
In short, Iran can now openly flout its “agreement” with the US with impunity.
This week, we learn that a private Iranian airline with deep connections to the IRGC bought a passenger jet from Britain in order to ferry Qassem Soleimaini and the Quds to Syria. Here’s IB Times with more:
One of Iran’s commercial airlines last week bought a U.K.-manufactured jet with the aim of using it to deliver Iranian soldiers and weapons to Syria in support of the embattled regime of President Bashar Assad, International Business Times has learned. The purchase of the aircraft by an Iranian concern represents a clear violation of the deal brokered by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, under which Iran pledged to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions, said senior American officials and attorneys who handle issues associated with sanctions compliance.
“Temporary sanctions relief ... currently in place does not cover the sale or lease of complete aircraft to Iran,” said Betsy Bourassa, a representative of the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence within the Treasury Department in Washington. And a representative of the State Department told IBT that it was aware of the sale and is investigating the transaction.
Under the terms of the ongoing sanctions, Iran is barred from purchasing aircraft from U.S. and European entities -- and U.S. and European entities are barred from selling them to Iran -- until Tehran has satisfied inspectors with the
International Atomic Energy Agency that it has begun rolling back its nuclear program, according to sanctions lawyers at Sheppard Mullin. Calls to Iran’s Foreign Ministry in Tehran were not returned.
The aircraft purchase marks the second time within five months that the Iranian airline, Mahan Air, one of the country’s largest domestic and international carriers, has purchased aircraft to expand its Tehran-based fleet. Linking
Iranian cities to Asian and European destinations, Mahan also flies to Damascus, where it delivers crucial stores of weaponry and troops of the elite ranks of the so-called Quds forces, which are aiding in the defense of the Syrian regime.
“Mahan Air’s close coordination with the Quds Force -- secretly ferrying operatives, weapons and funds on its flights -- reveals yet another facet of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps extensive infiltration of Iran’s commercial sector to facilitate its support for terrorism,” David Cohen, the U.S. under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said at a press briefing in Washington in 2011.
Mahan flights take off from Tehran and Abadan, another Iranian city, at unspecified times and without publicizing their destinations. The flights frequently disappear from tracking systems once they enter Syrian airspace. Radar then shows them having landed in Damascus.
Additionally, Mahan has been in the Treasury’s proverbial dog house for years after being accused of facilitating Soleimaini’s admittedly bizarre plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in a DC restaurant back in 2011 (see excerpts from leaked diplomatic cables here):
In October 2011, the Treasury Department announced that Mahan would be sanctioned for providing financial, material and technological support to the Quds Force in the Islamic Republic Guard Corps. The airline was also accused of flying Quds Force members linked to a plot to kill Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to the U.S., Adel al-Jubeir.
There are two takeaways from this. First, note that the US is actively attempting to dictate who can buy commercial airliners which raises the very real prospect that Washington is preventing Iran from modernizing its fleet which could in turn present safety issues for Iranian civilians.
Second, it's nothing short of hilarious that Iran not only violated a UN travel ban by sending The Quds commander to Russia to map out the Syrian incursion, but Tehran is now ferrying Qassem Soleimani, his deputies, and soldiers to Damascus and Al-Hasakah in a jet they just bought from America's staunchest ally.
Additionally, it's worth noting that if you want to know who's really interested in fighting ISIS (as opposed to the West's feigned anti-terror "campaign"), just consider one last passage from IB Times and the map shown below:
IBT tracked several Mahan Air flights over the span of two days and found at least two flights that took off from Damascus, landing in Al-Hasakah, Syria, the site of intense fighting between the Islamic State group and regime forces and their allies, before flying back to Tehran.
This also suggests that the Quds are being delivered to areas where the YPG and US spec ops are expected to be operating in the very near future.
If IB Times is correct about where the Quds are being inserted, then the potential for an escalation in Syria is even greater than we thought. That is, not only are US troops set to engage Hezbollah near Aleppo, there may well be a few shootouts between Delta Force and the Quds near Raqqa. Of course if the US is truly attempting to rout ISIS, then Obama's spec ops should be firing at the same targets as the Quds... Right? ...