Tuesday, the United States requested authorization to seize an Iranian aircraft that had been detained in Argentina due to concerns that it had ties to the terrorist-designated Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).
Argentina grounded the 747 cargo plane on June 8 after it unexpectedly arrived from Mexico at a Buenos Aires airport. The aircraft was once owned by Iran’s Mahan airline, which was linked to the Iranian IRGC and subject to US sanctions for supplying the Syrian regime with weapons and aiding armed militants.
Five Iranians, some of whom had obvious connections to the Iranian IRGC, were among the 19-person crew on board the aircraft when it landed in Argentina. Argentina took their passports away.
Iran Briefing reported in June that Iranians on board the Venezuelan airliner had planned attacks on human targets. The pilot was a senior officer of Qods (Quds) force, Tehran’s extraterritorial intelligence and secret operations unit that is classified by the United States as a terrorist group.
The US Department of Justice filed the request for confiscation after the US District Court for the District of Columbia unsealed an order for the jet’s seizure on July 19. The warrant claimed that the plane may be taken away because it broke export control regulations, according to the DOJ.
The identification of the Iranian pilot of the jet was one interesting aspect of the nearly two-month-long affair. It was soon discovered that the pilot of the aircraft was Gholamreza Ghasemi, a recognized member of the Iranian IRGC Qods Force and apparently a relative of Iran’s current interior minister Ahmad Vahidi. The other Iranians were connected to the IRGC or organizations that had ties to terrorism.
Mahan Air is under sanctions because of its connections to the IRGC-QF, a group that the US has labeled as a terrorist organization.