0429 GMT March 31, 2020
With a deadline to end nuclear negotiations less than two months away, the sanctions against Iran are already beginning to collapse. The latest evidence came over the weekend when nine used commercial airliners arrived in Iran to bolster the fleet of Mahan Air.
The US has threatened to sanction Western companies that sell planes to Iran, although a prohibition against Iran acquiring airplane spare parts was lifted in an interim agreement signed with Iran at the end of 2013.
The delivery of the used airplanes comes at a moment when Iran is seeking to rejoin the international economy. Last month Russia's President Vladimir Putin announced he would resume the sale of a sophisticated air defense system, known as the S300, to Iran. Western oil companies are already meeting Iranian officials to discuss how to get back into the country's lucrative oil and gas markets.
Abbas Akhoundi, Iran's transportation minister, said Sunday that 15 planes had been acquired by Iran since February, with nine arriving over the weekend. Other Iranian media reported that the planes — which used to be part of the Virgin Atlantic fleet — were headed to Mahan Air.
A Treasury Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the news Monday about the delivery of airplanes to Iran. Some analysts, however, said the transaction showed how the sanctions against Iran were collapsing ahead of the June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal.
"Mahan Air's case shows that US sanctions no longer deter Western companies from doing big business with Iran — even with a company like Mahan Air, which Treasury targeted for its support of the Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Corps," said Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank that has advocated for tough sanctions on Iran.
Despite the announcement last month of an agreed framework for a nuclear deal, much negotiation remains. Iran's Leader has insisted that all sanctions on Iran must be lifted upon the signing of an agreement, and Iranian military leaders have pledged no international inspectors will be given access to military sites. President Obama and other Western leaders have hoped that the burden of existing sanctions on Iran might give the US some leverage to pressure Iran on these remaining issues. But it appears that leverage is weakening.
This article originally appeared in Bloomberg View.