This weekend's prisoner swap with the U.S. may help Iran arm Assad

For years, Iran’s privately-owned Mahan Air has been using its planes to bring soldiers and arms directly to the Syrian military and the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah by flying them from Tehran to Damascus, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. In 2013, Treasury sanctioned Mahan’s managing director, Hamid Arabnejad, for overseeing the company’s efforts to evade U.S. and international sanctions and aiding the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ elite Quds Force.

“Arabnejad has a close working relationship with IRGC-QF personnel and coordinates Mahan Air’s support and services to the paramilitary group,” the Treasury Department said. “He has also been instrumental in facilitating the shipment of illicit cargo to Syria on Mahan Air aircraft.”

According to the Iranian state media organization FARS, Arabnejad is one of the 14 Iranians who no longer will have Interpol red notices out on them, which are meant to ensure their arrest and extradition to the U.S. on charges that will now also be dropped. The executive order he is sanctioned under is for support for terrorism. In 2011, the U.S. sanctioned the entire airline for ferrying personnel and arms for the Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hezbollah, which it officially considers a terrorist organization. The White House declined my request for comment on whether Arabnejad was among the de-listed Iranians, but did not dispute the 14 names on the FARS list.