France Stops Iran’s Mahan Air Flights Under U.S. Pressure, Sources Say

(Bloomberg) -- France joined a growing number of governments in blocking flights by Iranian carrier Mahan Air as the U.S. stepped up its campaign to squeeze Iran’s economy, two people familiar with the matter said.

Mahan, which the U.S. contends has links to Iran’s Quds military force, flew four flights a week to France’s Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, according to its website. The move was a priority for the Trump administration, according to one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the decision before France makes a formal announcement. 

The Trump administration is trying to choke off Iran’s economy as part of a “maximum pressure campaign” aimed at getting Tehran to stop developing ballistic missiles and abandon what the U.S. terms malign activity in the region.

Separately, the U.S. Treasury on Friday sanctioned 14 Iranian individuals and 17 entities it said had “played a central role” in the country’s past efforts to develop nuclear weapons. It said the move was against those connected to Iran’s Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, contending it’s being maintained to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program that Iran denies it had.

“The United States will continue applying maximum pressure to the Iranian regime, using all economic tools to prevent Iran from developing weapons of mass destruction,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

France’s decision to deny landing rights to Mahan follows a similar move by Germany in January.

After Germany’s action, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo sent a tweet encouraging other allies to follow suit, saying Mahan “transports weapons and fighters across the Middle East, supporting the Iranian regime’s destructive ambitions around the region.”

Al-Monitor, a publication that covers the Middle East, reported this week that the French ban would take effect on April 1, citing an email received from the airline by a passenger who’d booked a flight to Paris.

The State Department declined to comment on France’s Mahan Air cutoff. Iranian officials and executives of the airline weren’t available to comment, with most offices in Tehran closed for the Norouz new year holiday.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.