About 60,000 tickets in the name of Hamrah and hundreds of kilograms of luggage on the plane: a new study reveals how the Iranian airline Mahan Air smuggles weapons to Syria and Lebanon. The pilots are “loaned” Revolutionary Guardsmen, a travel agency transfers thousands of dollars for baggage irregularities – and all on civilian planes.
The Iranian civil airline “Mahan Air” transfers Iranian weapons to Syria and Lebanon in the service of the Revolutionary Guards, at the same time as its civilian activities – and it does this through dozens of pilots associated with the Revolutionary Guards. To hide the payments from the Revolutionary Guards, the Iranians use travel agencies that disguise the identity of their people – and the equipment they carry in the belly of the plane.
The information, which was revealed in a study published by the “Alma” Institute for the Study of Israel’s Security Challenges in the Northern Arena, indicates that the “Mahan Air” company maintains a normal civilian activity for flying passengers, alongside a secret military activity aimed at transferring weapons to Syria and Lebanon, while maintaining a low profile. The company’s planes, which transport weapons alongside passengers, are manned by dozens of pilots who know what cargo they are carrying, and their job is to make sure it reaches its destination safely. “The pilots are not publicly associated with the Revolutionary Guards, and were most likely ‘loaned’ to the company,” according to the research.
Mahan Air operates hundreds of flights a year between Tehran and Syria and Lebanon, and flies to a number of other destinations in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. The company cannot fly to Western Europe and other destinations, in light of the sanctions imposed on it. In light of the sanctions, it maintains a fleet of outdated aircraft, ones that are no longer seen in the world, except as cargo planes in exceptional cases. Some of the company’s planes have a very large cargo capacity, such as the outdated Boeing 747-200, and these planes can carry heavy cargo in their belly.
Already in 2011, the United States imposed sanctions on the Iranian company, and in the statement of the American Ministry of Finance it was stated that the company has “close coordination with the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, which secretly flies its people, weapons and money.” It is also stated that “Mahan Air provides transfer services to Hezbollah, and the transfer soldiers and weapons in the name of Hezbollah, and omitted from the shipment records secret weapons transfers to Hezbollah.
The connection between the Revolutionary Guards and Mahan Air
The connections between “Mahan Air” and the Revolutionary Guards and the Quds Force. From the study.
The CEO of Mahan Air, Hamid Arab-Najad Hanouchi, is a former senior member of the Revolutionary Guards and a close friend of Qasem Soleimani. Islamic and that the company will continue to operate despite the sanctions imposed on it,” the study states.
On Ynet it was first published last May that Iran and Hezbollah use civilian flights to Syria and Lebanon to smuggle advanced, relatively small military components that can be disguised in luggage that goes on civilian flights. The smuggling axis, it was announced, is managed by Sid Rada Safi al-Din, a senior member of Hezbollah, who is the son of the head of the terrorist organization’s executive council. Rada is married to Qassem Soleimani’s daughter, and often flies to Iran, where he coordinates transfers of advanced military components. According to the Alma Institute, “UAV components and missile components were also transferred this way.”
The travel agency that hides everything
To help the airline whitewash the suspected military activity, the research claims, a collaboration was made with a travel agency called “Hamra SYR”. The agency, according to the research, suspiciously purchases tens of thousands of airline tickets, and transfers to the company a payment of thousands of dollars for deviations of hundreds of kilograms in the weight of the passengers’ luggage.
According to the research, the agency is in close contact with the “Mahan Air” company, and between the years 2018 and 2021, ordered approximately 60,000 flight tickets in the name of a person named Hamrah Hamrah. Another evidence of the relationship between the agencies, according to the research, is the fact that some of the bookings state that the passenger has a special permit, which can be given by only nine people – those identified with the Revolutionary Guards. Among other things, this is about someone known as Mr. Kahki and Mr. Esmaeili.
Apart from this, the study also identified that 15 landline numbers were specified in the order details of 2,000 tickets. Apart from this, it appears that Mahan Air has bills of lading for dozens of tons of equipment to Damascus and Lebanon, which were received from the Hamra SYR agency and another travel agency – which paid an additional fee for excess baggage of hundreds of kilograms on the plane – weights that are not reasonable for the average passenger.
The study also reveals the details of 63 pilots, who, according to estimates, are assigned to the flights on the company’s lines to Damascus and Aleppo airport. The working assumption of the study is that these pilots also made dozens of flights to Lebanon in 2022.
Tal Bari, head of the research department at “Alma” and director of the research, said: “Mahan Air is a ‘private’ Iranian company, which functions as a full proxy of the Quds Force for the transfer of IML, equipment and operatives. In internal correspondence, its managers state that they will continue to act according to the goals of the Islamic Republic despite the sanctions. How does an apparently private commercial civilian company handle such a large volume of activity for the Quds Force, unless that is its main purpose? The Codes force has direct access to the company’s computer systems and the personnel of the company’s headquarters are in close and ongoing contact with Quds Force personnel. It is possible that some of the pilots are loaned members of the Revolutionary Guards, and some are simply paying attention.”
December 14, 2022 Published by Ynet News Israel.