Roskam Urges Treasury Dept. to Investigate Iran Air Transport of Militants to Syria On Commercial Aircraft

Aug 23, 2017
Press Release

U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL), Andy Barr (R-KY), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) wrote to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin today urging him to swiftly investigate newly published photos of Iranian-backed militants aboard an Iran Air commercial aircraft, and to re-sanction Iran Air if found guilty of transporting military goods and/or personnel to Syria since implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

As first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, in the letter, the lawmakers enclosed the recently published photos of militants aboard Iran Air aircraft and on Syrian battlefields. These photos, compiled into fact sheets by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, indicate Iran Air’s illicit use of commercial aircraft to support military and terrorist activities in the Syria. Iran Air was sanctioned in 2011 for such malign behavior, and several Iranian and Syrian airliners currently remain under U.S. sanction for supporting the Assad Regime and terrorist groups.

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote:

            We are writing to bring your attention to newly published, open-source photos of Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, evidently transporting militants to Syria on   commercial aircraft. These newly released photos, enclosed with this letter, provide evidence Iran Air has engaged in Iran’s illicit transport of military goods and personnel to Syria since implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”

            “Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for military purposes violates international agreements as well as Iranian commitments under the JCPOA. We believe these photos mandate a thorough investigation of these practices and a comprehensive review of Iran’s illicit use of commercial aircraft. During this investigation, the United States should suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to Iran”

In January, Rep. Roskam introduced the Terror-Free Skies Act to curb the use of commercial aircraft in support of international terrorism. 

The full text of the lawmaker’s letter to Secretary Mnuchin and background on Iran Air is below.

 

The Honorable Steven Mnuchin
United States Secretary of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20220
                                                                       

Dear Secretary Mnuchin:

We are writing to bring your attention to newly published, open-source photos of Iran’s flagship carrier, Iran Air, evidently transporting militants to Syria on commercial aircraft. These newly released photos, enclosed with this letter, provide evidence Iran Air has engaged in Iran’s illicit transport of military goods and personnel to Syria since implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for military purposes violates international agreements as well as Iranian commitments under the JCPOA. We believe these photos mandate a thorough investigation of these practices and a comprehensive review of Iran’s illicit use of commercial aircraft. During this investigation, the United States should suspend current and future licenses for aircraft sales to Iran.

In previous correspondence, the Department of Treasury agreed to consider any new evidence of illicit Iranian use of commercial aircraft, and confirmed the U.S. retains the ability to re-designate Iranian airlines guilty of such activities. In a June 22, 2017 letter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Treasury Matt Kellogg wrote in reference to monitoring Iran’s military use of commercial aircraft, “…We continue to carefully review license applications and monitor Iranian activity. We will also carefully consider any evidence that calls into question the commercial passenger nature of any end user activity.” In an earlier letter from November 23, 2016, Treasury department official Thomas Patrick Maloney stated the U.S. maintains the ability to designate or re-designate any Iranian airline that engages in sanctionable activity.

In light of these assurances to both investigate evidence of Iranian wrongdoing and to re-designate Iranian airlines engaging in sanctionable activity, we strongly urge you to investigate the enclosed photos. If as a result of your investigation, you find Iran Air guilty of conducting military transports with commercial aircraft, it should be re-designated. These photos, reportedly taken in both 2016 and 2017, appear to document militants of the Fatemiyoun Brigade, an Afghan Shiite militia, aboard an Iran Air aircraft headed to Syria. These photos seem to display militiamen sitting on seats clearly labeled with the Iran Air logo. These individuals are not Afghani civilians; they are believed to be members of an Iranian-backed militia, trained and funded by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), actively fighting for the Assad regime in the Syria. We have enclosed additional photos of these same militiamen aboard Iran Air airliners on Syrian battlefields posing with weapons and ammunition. These photos indicate, Iran Air, a commercial airliner, is facilitating the ongoing atrocities committed against the Syrian people by the Assad regime and its allies. The U.S. must take steps to punish any and all entities supporting such activity.

These photos offer strong evidence of Iran Air’s noncommercial and illicit use of commercial aircraft to materially support the IRGC and the Assad Regime. The U.S. maintains authority under Executive Order 13224 to sanction Iran Air for providing financial support, and/or material support to the IRGC, as well as authority under Executive Order 13572 to sanction those supporting human rights abuses against the Syrian people. We strongly urge you to swiftly investigate and conduct a comprehensive review of Iran Air’s role in supporting Iran and the Assad regime militarily, and hold accountable those found guilty of such activity.

For your consideration, we have enclosed additional materials supporting our concerns that Iran Air is conducting illicit activity, including numerous photos of militants aboard Iran Air aircraft and on the ground in Syria. We look forward to working with you on this important issue.

                                                                        Sincerely,


                                                                       
PETER J. ROSKAM                                                                          ANDY BARR
Member of Congress                                                                           Member of Congress
                                   
LEE ZELDIN                                                                                     DAVE REICHERT
Member of Congress                                                                           Member of Congress

cc: The Honorable Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence

Encl.:

            1. Foundation For Defense of Democracies Fact Sheet (1): “IRGC Fighters Fly Iran Air    to Join             Fight in Syria”
            2. Foundation For Defense of Democracies Fact Sheet (2) “IRGC Fighters Fly Iran Air to            Join      Fight in Syria”
            3. Photo Set #1: Militiamen aboard Iran Air aircraft and in Syria (Jan 2017)
            4. Photo Set #2: Militiamen aboard Iran Air aircraft in Syria (August 2016)

Background

Last April, Rep. Roskam wrote an Op-Ed in The Wall Street Journal urging Western companies not to do business in Iran. “If you wouldn’t do business with Islamic State, you shouldn’t do business with the Islamic Republic,” he wrote. Rep. Roskam spoke with French and European media outlets to warn Airbus not to sell planes to the Iranians.

In May 2016, he joined fellow Illinois Reps. Robert Dold and Randy Hultgren in sending a letter to Boeing’s CEO urging the Chicago-based company not to empower the terror-sponsoring regime. Senior members of the Congressional delegation from Washington state, where Boeing is the largest private employer, crafted another letter of inquiry.

In June 2016, Iranian regime officials announced their intention to buy and lease 109 new Boeing aircraft in a deal worth up to $25 billion, pending approval from the U.S. government. Rep. Roskam and Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling wrote to Boeing once again, asking specific questions to help them assess the national security implications of such a deal. Rep. Roskam wrote an Op-Ed in USA Today detailing his opposition to the misguided, dangerous proposal.

In July 2016, the Financial Services Committee held a hearing on the implications of aircraft sales to Iran. Both Republicans and Democrats spoke out in support of legislation to block or impede the transfer of these militarily-fungible goods to the world’s leading state sponsor or terror.

The House easily passed two amendments authored by Rep. Roskam to block the controversial sales of both Boeing and Airbus aircraft to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The amendments to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act passed by voice vote, indicating overwhelming, bipartisan support.

In November 2016, the House passed legislation blocking financing for aircraft sales to Iran.

In July 2017, the House passed legislation requiring a report on Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for illicit purposes.