The US government has imposed sanctions on two aviation companies in Iraq and the UAE for selling used commercial aircraft to Iran.
The Treasury Department designated Iraq-based Al-Naser Airlines and Sky Blue Bird Aviation in the United Arab Emirates as sanctions violators.
They were targeted over sales of nine used Airbus commercial aircraft to Iran’s Mahan Air earlier this month.
The Treasury order blocks property owned by Al-Naser Airlines and Sky Blue Bird Aviation and prevents Americans from doing business with them.
“We will continue to actively counter Iranian sanctions evasion,” said Treasury’s Acting Under Secretary Adam J. Szubin.
The department said Al-Naser Airlines had transferred at least eight Airbus A340 and one Airbus A320 aircraft to Mahan Air.
Mahan Air is also under the US sanctions as of Oct. 2011, accused of carrying weapons.
The airline’s Hossein Marashi has dismissed as “really baseless to say Mahan buys modern planes to carry weapons as if there is shortage of planes in Iran for such purposes”.
According to Saeed Chalandari, head of Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, Mahan Air will use its new planes to add flights to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi in Russia, Manama in Bahrain and Athens.
The airline is Iran’s second carrier, and along with flag carrier Iran Air, it is on a mission to rebuild the country’s aging commercial fleet which has suffered a series of aviation mishaps under US and European sanctions.
Last month, head of the Iran Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Ali Reza Jahangirian said Iran needed to buy up to 500 passenger planes in the next 10 years to renovate its fleet.
The official said Iranian airlines are currently operating with a fleet of about 140 aircraft, which is “very lower than average international norms in terms of international indexes of population and area”.
The US government’s blacklisting flies in the face of a preliminary agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries in November 2013 which included an easing of sanctions on the Iranian aviation sector.
The US and the Europeans contend that the deal covers sales of spare parts, but not aircraft.
With such strings attached, the West is currently discussing a possible final nuclear deal with Iran which has to tackle a series of contentious issues, including lifting of the sanctions.
On Thursday, managing editor of the Tehran-based Kayhan newspaper Hossein Shariatmadari said, “A nuclear agreement is impossible.”