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Airbus Completes Deal to Sell Planes to Iran Air, Which Ferries Troops and Arms to Syria

The European aviation giant Airbus announced Thursday that it has concluded an $18 billion deal to sell 100 planes to Iran’s national airline, which has used its fleet to transport troops and weapons to Syria.

Airbus, which is the second biggest airplane manufacturer in the world after Boeing, will begin delivering the planes to Iran Air early next year, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Iran Air was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2011 for, among other things, ferrying “missile or rocket components to Syria,” but was removed from the Treasury’s blacklist as part of the nuclear deal with Iran. But many analysts believe that the airline is continuing to ferry materiel to fighters in Syria. Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, noted in September that an Iran Air flight scheduled to fly from Tehran to Damascus made an unscheduled stop in Abadan—an Iranian port city nearly 600 miles out of the way that serves as the logistics hub for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The announcement of the Airbus sale came less than two weeks after Boeing announced that it would sell 80 planes to Iran Air for $16.6 billion. The Boeing deal, which has been in the works for a year, has been met significant resistance from a bipartisan group of members of Congress.

“Iran Air’s aircraft will undoubtedly be used in the future to continue to funnel lethal assistance to [Syrian dictator Bashar] Assad, to Hezbollah, and to other terrorist entities,” Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) wrote in a June letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Sherman had previously described Iran Air as “an air force for terrorism.”

[Photo: Mark Harkin / Flickr ]