France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

The US imposed sanctions on the airline since 2011. (AFP/File)
Updated 25 March 2019

France bans Iran’s Mahan Air for flying arms, troops to Syria, elsewhere

  • The ban will become effective starting April 1
  • The airlines were also banned by Germany since January

PARIS: France has banned flights in and out of the country by Iran’s Mahan Air, accusing it of transporting military equipment and personnel to Syria and other Middle East war zones, diplomats said on Monday, after heavy US pressure on Paris to act.
The decision to revoke Mahan’s license to operate in France was made after Germany banned the airline in January.
Paris had considered revoking its license more than two years ago under the presidency of Francois Hollande, but had backed down because it feared it could harm relations just after a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was signed in 2015.
The United States imposed sanctions on Mahan Air in 2011, saying it provided financial and other support to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Washington has been pressing its European allies to follow suit.
“We knew of their activities from our own intelligence services and after the German move it was a question of credibility,” said a French diplomatic source.
The French ban on the airline, which had four flights a week to Paris from Tehran, takes effect from April 1. The airline’s website is no longer taking reservations and calls to its offices in Paris were not answered.
Tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as President Emmanuel Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s ballistic missile tests, regional activities and a foiled attack on an Iranian exile group in France, which Paris says Iranian intelligence was behind.
Both countries only reappointed ambassadors to each other’s capitals last month after more than six months without envoys.
There are no plans at this stage to ban another airline — Iran Air — said one diplomat.
Mahan Air, established in 1992 as Iran’s first private airline, has the country’s largest fleet of aircraft and has flights to a number of European countries, including France, Italy, Spain and Greece.
European countries have been under sustained US pressure to reimpose sanctions on Iran since President Donald Trump last year pulled Washington out of an international nuclear non-proliferation treaty reached with Tehran under his predecessor Barack Obama.
Along with Iran, the other signatories to the deal — Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China — are still trying to keep it alive and set up in January a mechanism to allow trade with Tehran and circumvent US sanctions.


Malaysia’s Mahathir ousted from party amid power struggle

Updated 11 min 10 sec ago

Malaysia’s Mahathir ousted from party amid power struggle

  • Bersatu party has been split into two camps
  • Mahathir Mohamad co-founded Bersatu with Muhyiddin Yassin in 2016

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Malaysia’s former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has been ousted from his ethnic Malay political party in the latest twist of a power struggle with his successor, but he has vowed to challenge the move.
The 94-year-old Mahathir, along with his son and three other senior members, were expelled from the Bersatu party on Thursday.
The party has been split into two camps since intense political wrangling led Mahathir to resign as prime minister in February and the king to appoint fellow party member Muhyiddin Yassin as his replacement despite Mahathir’s objections.
Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz Mahathir, has since challenged Muhyiddin as party president in a vote that’s been postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The unilateral action by Bersatu’s president to sack us without valid reason is due to his own fears in facing party elections as well as his unsafe position as the most unstable prime minister in the history of the country’s administration,” a joint statement by Mahathir and the four others said.
Mahathir co-founded Bersatu with Muhyiddin in 2016, and the party joined an alliance that won a stunning victory in 2018 polls, leading to the first change of government since independence.
The ruling alliance collapsed after Muhyiddin pulled Bersatu out to work with the former government, which has been accused of massive corruption. Mahathir, a two-time prime minister, resigned in protest.
Mahathir has said he still has the majority support of lawmakers and has called for a no-confidence vote against Muhyiddin. The vote has been delayed amid the pandemic but could be held at the next sitting of Parliament in July.
In their statement, Mahathir and the other expelled members said the move was illegal and they may take legal action to challenge their termination and ensure Bersatu isn’t used as a vehicle for those crazy for power.
Party letters sent to the five said their membership had ceased as they sat with the opposition bloc during a half-day Parliament sitting on May 18. But the letter was signed by a lower official who Mahathir’s group and others said had no power to remove them.
“All eyes are on Mahathir’s next move,” said Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. “Muhyiddin would be gravely mistaken if he thinks this will slow down Mahathir’s relentless onslaught to not so much unseat him, but topple the present ruling coalition.”
Muhyiddin had earlier tried to reconcile with Mahathir, but failed.
The current government includes the party of ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is on trial on charges related to a massive financial scandal.

Related