A Qeshm Fars Air flight on July 9, 2018 that raised alarm bells from US intelligence;  the suspicion is that he smuggled weapons for Hezbollah

On October 16, 2018, a Boeing 747 Iranian cargo company Qeshm Fars Air landed on Beirut at 2:04 PM. The flight aroused immediate suspicion in the Western intelligence community: it had left at 9:33 a.m. Tehran, followed a completely unusual route and hid details of its trajectory for much of the journey. The next day she left for Doha, Qatar. weeks after the chain foxnews revealed in a report based on sources from US and Israeli investigative agencies that the freighter was carrying “GPS devices to manufacture precision-guided weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon.” And that the items were destined for Hezbollahthe Lebanese organization financed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

That flight fueled an investigation into the “air bridge of terror” that the United States attributes to the civil airlines Qeshm Fars Air and its parent company, Mahan Airand who now maintain suspicions regarding the plane of the Venezuelan company Emtrasur that has been stranded in Ezeiza since Monday the 6th and about its Iranian pilot, Gholamreza Ghasemi. This was evidenced in the report that the FBI presented to the federal court in charge of Federico Villena.

A Qeshm Fars Air flight on July 9, 2018 that raised alarm bells from US intelligence; the suspicion is that he smuggled weapons for Hezbollah

“Qeshm Fars Air operates flights between Iran and Syria on a regular basis. As part of the efforts made by Iran and the Quds Force to equip Hezbollah with weapons, advanced military components and weapons are being smuggled from Iran using civilian flights from Tehran to Damascus,” the court filing said.

Ghasemi Gholamreza, in a restaurant near the Ezeiza hotel where he has been staying for 10 days
Ghasemi Gholamreza, in a restaurant near the Ezeiza hotel where he has been staying for 10 daysEnrique Garcia Medina

Regarding Ghasemi, it is indicated that he was a member of the board of directors of Qeshm Fars Air, which the United States considers directly an instrument of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard. His name and position appeared in a first Fox News article in September 2018, which exposed the first suspicions about the use of Iranian civilian airlines to move weapons to Lebanese extremists. There is no reference to him being a pilot on those flights. Qeshm Fars uses Boeing 747, similar to the one that remained in judicial custody in Ezeiza. The Emtrasur ship operated under the Iranian flag until this year and had been used by Mahan Air before the agreement by which it passed into the hands of the Iranian regime. Nicholas Maduro as the first and until now only member of the fleet of the state cargo company, conceived as a subsidiary of Conviasa.

The first alert about the activity of Qeshm Fars emerged in July 2018. On the 9th of that month, flight QFZ9960 departed from an air force base in Tehran, made a brief stopover in Damascus (Syria) and followed “a route of uncharacteristic flight” to Beirut International Airport. A second unusual flight was completed on August 2: QFZ9960 left Tehran and landed in Beirut at 5:59 PM, following an inexplicable trajectory over northern Syria, involving a lengthy detour.

“The Iranians are trying to find new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and challenging the West’s ability to track them.”An unidentified source from regional intelligence said in that report.

The October 20 report, after the third flight reported as suspicious, maintains that Western intelligence sources believe the cargo plane was carrying items for Hezbollah and that these components “were destined for the organization’s secret depots near Beirut airport.” to attack Israel in the future.” Fox News quoted former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin: “We are determined not to let it happen. This is a source of concern because if the Iranians on the one hand are determined to build this precision ballistic missile project and the Israelis are determined not to let it happen, this is a recipe for collision.”

Sanctions on Mahan Air have weighed since 2011 due to suspicions that it was an instrument of Iranian intelligence to assist terrorism in the region. In 2016, still in the Barack Obama administration, he was the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danonwho alerted the Security Council about arms smuggling operations on that airline’s planes.

Iran always denied it: “The publication of such incorrect reports has become common in recent days and weeks and indicates an intensified psychological warfare by hostile and anti-Iranian circles,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram said at the time. Qassemi.

The Boeing 747-300 registered with the number YV3531 of the Venezuelan airline Emtrasur Cargo, which flew until recently for the Iranian Mahan Air
The Boeing 747-300 registered with the number YV3531 of the Venezuelan airline Emtrasur Cargo, which flew until recently for the Iranian Mahan AirSebastian Borsero – AFP

The name of the pilot who today spends his days in a hotel in Canning, near the Ezeiza airport, is mentioned as follows in the reports from six years ago: “Qeshm Fars Air stopped its activity in 2013 amid administrative failures, but restarted operations in March 2017. Among the company’s board members are three members of the Revolutionary Guard: Ali Naghi Gol Parsta, Hamid Reza Pahlvani and Gholamreza Ghasemi..

The quote is reproduced in a site entry IFMAT (acronym in English that refers to Frauds, Manipulations, Atrocities and Threats of the Iranian Regime). There is a personal record of Gholamreza Ghasemi, with no more personal data than that link with the airline. The FBI took for granted that Ezeiza’s guest is that same person, despite the fact that the Argentine government installed the version that it is “a homonym.”

Among the little verifiable information about the pilot there is his participation in an aviation congress in 2016 in Tehran, at a time when the United States government had begun a process of slowing down sanctions against the Iranian regime. Ghasemi appears with a photo and everything among the participants. He is mentioned as CEO of another company, named Naft Airlineswhich is owned by the Iranian Oil Ministry.

Ghasemi's file as a participant in an aviation congress in Iran: he appears as a director of Naft Airlines
Ghasemi’s file as a participant in an aviation congress in Iran: he appears as a director of Naft Airlines

The accumulation of suspicions against Qeshm Fars and Mahan led in 2019 to an official sanction from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury.

OFAC said that Qeshm Fars Air “is owned or controlled by Mahan Air, and provides material support to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Quds Force.” Mahan Air adds, “plays an integral role in supporting Quds and his proxies in Syria by transporting personnel and weapons”.

The then Secretary of the Treasury (during the administration of Donald Trump), Steve Mnuchin, he said in justifying the decision: “The brutal Iranian regime exploits the refugee communities in Iran, deprives them of access to basic services such as education and uses them as human shields for the Syrian conflict. Treasury’s targeting of Iranian-backed militias and other foreign proxies is part of our ongoing pressure campaign to shut down illicit networks the regime uses to export terrorism and unrest around the world.”

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker added: “Iran continues to leverage Mahan Air and its commercial aviation sector to transport people and weapons needed to carry out this tragic campaign and fuel sectarian conflict throughout the region. We are aggressively targeting those who continue to provide commercial support to Mahan Air and other designated airlines, and anyone who fails to heed our warnings is exposed to serious risk of sanctions.”

Says the Treasury in the justification for the sanctions: “Since the start of the Syrian civil war, Iran has routinely relied on Iranian airlines such as Mahan Air to transport warplanes and material to Syria to prop up the Assad regime. Mahan Air has transported Revolutionary Guard agents, weapons, equipment and funds abroad in support of destabilizing regional operations (…). Qeshm Fars Air, which originally operated as a commercial airline between 2006 and 2013, restarted operations in 2017, and its fleet of two B747 aircraft has operated regular cargo flights to Damascus, delivering cargo, including arms shipments, on behalf of the Revolutionary Guard. Qeshm Fars Air’s delivery of lethal material enables Iran’s military support for the Assad regime, prolonging the brutal conflict and suffering of millions of Syrians, and has caused the displacement of millions across the region.”

Despite the US sanctions, the Mahan and Qeshm Fars flights continued to move through countries allied with Iran in the Middle East and through Russia. They also regularly flew to Caracas, due to the growing link between the Iranian revolution and the Maduro regime.

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