Israel has applauded Argentina for holding an Iranian-linked cargo plane. The plane was carrying automotive parts from Iran to Venezuela and had 19 crew members – unusually large for a cargo plane. The Israeli Embassy commended Argentine authorities for their “quick action” in holding the plane down. Since June 8, the plane has been grounded at the main airport outside of Buenos Aires.
The United States accuses Mahan Air of links to the Revolutionary Guards. The plane’s crew includes former Iranian leaders wanted on international warrants in connection with the 1994 attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds. But the Iranian government denies any involvement. In the meantime, Argentina has grounding the plane to make its point.
Although the Argentine government has not publicly confirmed the plane’s seizure, a document filed with the Interior Ministry said authorities seized the aircraft after suspicions were raised about the plane’s cause. The US and Venezuela have been engulfed in sanctions since Trump’s administration imposed the ban on their relations. Although both countries are under sanctions, Venezuela and Iran signed an agreement in 2015 that was designed to foster cooperation between the two nations.
A member of the Argentine intelligence committee claimed the plane was conducting intelligence operations in Argentina. The document also lists the names of passengers. Whether or not the plane is linked to a terrorist organization is a question for Argentine courts to answer. The investigation is ongoing. The CIA has been asked to review the case. In the meantime, a habeas corpus petition will be filed against the crew of the plane and the passengers.
The Argentine authorities grounded the plane en route to Uruguay. The plane was originally sold to Emtrasur by Mahan Air of Iran, which is under U.S. sanctions for assisting Iran’s Quds Force. The flight crew was searched by law enforcement officials at the airport on Tuesday. As of Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy did not find any irregularities with the crew or cargo.
The US government placed a ban on Mahan Air in 2011 because the company supports the Iran-backed Elite Revolutionary Guard Corps. A document shows that the plane carried 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians. Lawyers have filed a Habeas corpus to stop the flight, but a ruling has yet to be made. The Argentine courts are yet to rule on the lawyers’ Habeas corpus request.