The United States on Tuesday sanctioned a Chinese firm over its business ties with a blacklisted Iranian airliner, and threatened to do the same to other companies as well.
“China is one of the few countries that still welcomes Mahan Air, an airline used to ferry Iran’s arms and terrorists. Today’s designation of a China-based company exacts consequences for that decision,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
He added: “Anyone doing business with Mahan Air runs the risk of sanctions.”
Mahan has been under US sanctions since 2011 for allegedly providing support to the Quds Force, the overseas branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that backs Hezbollah and other terror groups.
A Treasury Department statement said the sanctioned firm, Shanghai Saint Logistics Limited, served as a general service agent to Mahan, providing various services on the airline’s behalf such as freight booking.
The sanctions freeze any US-based assets of the company and prohibit Americans from doing business with it.
“The Iranian regime is using Mahan Air to support an illegitimate and corrupt regime in Venezuela, just as it has done for the regime in Syria and for terrorist proxy groups throughout the Middle East,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
Mahan has been linked to alleged shipments of arms from Iran to Shiite groups in Syria, including the Hezbollah terror group. Alleged Israeli airstrikes in Syria have been thought to target Mahan Air weapons shipments in the past.
In April, Pompeo said “multiple aircraft” belonging to Mahan had transferred ”unknown support” to Venezuela’s government. He called for a halt to the flights and for other countries to bar overflights by Mahan Air.
The Associated Press has reported that Mahan was delivering key chemical components used for producing gasoline to help revive an aging refinery in the South American country, which is in the grip of a severe economic crisis.
Venezuela has been suffering from widespread gasoline shortages despite having the world’s largest oil reserves.
Both Iran and Venezuela are under heavy US sanctions, and have had close relations for the last two decades.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.