Iranian airline Mahan Air has been barred from operating in Germany over fears that it is being used for military and terrorist purposes by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, reports Reuters.
It follows a July 2018 warning from U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that, “Companies that continue to service Mahan aircraft, or facilitate Mahan flights in and out of airports in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, are on notice that they do so at great financial risk.”
The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Mahan Air in 2011, on the grounds that the airline was being used for military purposes by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and transporting fighters and arms to Syria. This means U.S. citizens are prohibited from engaging in commercial or financial transactions with Mahan Air.
Tabloid Bild first reported in December that the German government would likely withdraw landing permission for Mahan Air, under pressure from the U.S. government. The United States’ latest round of sanctions on Iran in November increased pressure on friendly foreign governments to follow suit or face massive fines.
The banning of Mahan Air is the second recent incident of alleged Iranian espionage in Germany. Earlier this week a German-Afghani language consultant for Germany’s military was accused of spying for Iranian intelligence services. Several EU countries have also recently accused Iran of carrying out spying operations and planning attacks on the continent — accusations that Iran strenuously denies.
Mahan Air operated four flights a week between Düsseldorf and Tehran, plus two more from Munich. The airline also flies from Tehran to Paris and Barcelona to Milan. National flag carrier Iran Air still operates flights between Tehran and Frankfurt, plus Hamburg and Cologne.
In a separate move, European officials are this week preparing to discuss further sanctions against Tehran. Officials from Germany, France, and the U.K. are hoping to win wider EU support for a plan to levy more sanctions while saving the nuclear deal abandoned by the U.S., reports the Financial Times.
“We need to accept that the [nuclear deal] is important and it has been a signal achievement,” an EU diplomat told the FT. “Equally, we need to stress that there are real reasons to be concerned about what Iran has been doing — and we need to apply pressure.”