by Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
The Obama administration has given clearance to Western airline manufacturers to sell planes to Iran at the same time the Islamic Republic is using commercial airliners to smuggle weapons and other illicit arms to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, according to new intelligence and congressional communications obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The disclosure of this new intelligence, which shows that Iran has been using its commercial airline company to smuggle advanced weaponry to Hezbollah and terrorists operating in Syria, has placed renewed focus on a congressional inquiry that has been stymied by Obama administration officials since early October.
Senators, led by Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), have been pushing Obama administration officials to explain why they are helping airline manufacturers Boeing and AirBus sell planes to Iran, despite clear evidence that Tehran is using its commercial airline as cover for its continued terrorist operations across the region.
As with multiple other congressional investigations into the Obama administration’s efforts to roll back economic sanctions and conduct secret dealings with Iran, officials have stonewalled Perdue, refusing to answer key questions about the motivation for aiding Tehran’s pursuit of planes that could be used to further its terrorist enterprise.
This new intelligence comes just days after the Obama administration approved a second license for AirBus, a French company, to pursue even more sales with Iran.
The Free Beacon recently disclosed that several American-made planes are currently being flown by Iran’s Air Force, while other jets are being used in its commercial sector to smuggle arms.
Perdue on Wednesday accused the Obama administration of facilitating Iran’s terrorist operations by signing off on the multi-billion dollar deals to sell Iran planes, according to a letter sent to the Treasury Department, which oversees such sales, and obtained by the Free Beacon.
The senator chided the department for ignoring his initial Oct. 6 request for information, describing this lack of response as “troubling.”
“While I find your lack of a response to our last letter troubling, I would not that the issue surrounding commercial aircraft usage for illicit purposes by the Iranian regime has now expanded, given new intelligence information alleging that Iran has indeed been using Mahan Air — a commercial airline that is currently subject to U.S. and UN sanctions — to smuggle weapons and ammunition to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Perdue writes.
New intelligence unearthed by the Israelis and disseminated to United Nations Security Council members in an “urgent letter” shows that Iran has been using Mahan Air to smuggle a large quantity of arms into Lebanon, where they are then transferred to Hezbollah, which remains committed to destroying the Jewish state.
“These planes fly directly to the airport in Lebanon or Damascus and from there the weapons are transferred on the ground to Hezbollah,” according to the letter sent by Israeli officials to U.N. Security Council members.
This includes weapons, ammunition, and missile technology to Hezbollah, which is placed inside suitcases and placed on Mahan’s commercial flights.
The intelligence further shows that Hezbollah now has about 12,000 missiles hidden underground in Lebanon, or “more than 17 times the number of missiles it possessed 10 years ago, and more than the European NATO allies have above the ground,” according to Perdue’s letter.
The intelligence appears to confirm fears by many in Congress that the easing of airline sales to Iran by the Obama administration will directly fuel Tehran’s global terrorist operation, according to the senator.
“This report confirms precisely the fear we expressed in our October 6 letter: that Iran continues to use commercial aircraft to smuggle weapons and ammunition in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 to support its terrorist proxies,” Perdue wrote, referring to the UN resolution currently governing last year’s comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran.
“We are rightly concerned that Iran may continue to do so with the new commercial aircraft it purchases from Boeing and Airbus, as permitted by the U.S. Treasury Department,” the letter stated.
Despite this intelligence, the Obama administration continues to sign off on and endorse these sales to Iran.
“I was also disturbed to see that Airbus, one of the companies seeking licenses for the sale of commercial aircraft to the government of Iran, was just awarded a second license from U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to sell up to 118 jets to Iran,” Perdue wrote. “To echo the concerns of our last letter, what, if any, end-use monitoring controls can you guarantee will follow this license to ensure that these aircraft are not used to further support Iran’s terrorist proxies or support for the Assad regime in Syria?”
One senior congressional aide familiar with the matter told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration’s permissive attitude towards Tehran has only emboldened its bad behavior.
“The sanctions relief President Obama agreed to has allowed Iran to ramp up support for its destructive ambitions,” the source said. “Given this recent discovery by [Israeli U.N.] Ambassador Danon, President Obama and Congress shouldn’t wait to see what this rogue nation has planned for this massive increase in commercial aircraft.”
“It’s been nearly a year since the implementation of President Obama’s nuclear deal and we’ve seen Iran become increasingly aggressive in its support of terrorism,” the source noted. “In fact, Iran is still the number one state sponsor of terrorism. If this isn’t a symptom of a failed deal, what is?”