Did Sanctions Cause Plane Crash in Iran?

The exact cause of a plane crash in Iran that reportedly left more than 70 people dead remains unknown as of Sunday afternoon. There was apparently bad weather in the area, and the snow impeded rescue efforts.

But one thing that is well known is that, generally speaking, Iranian commercial passenger airliners are in disrepair. (Reuters has a timeline of Iranian airplane crashes since early 2000.) One possible cause: sanctions. Iran is banned from acquiring parts and maintenance for its fleet of planes that carry nothing more than civilians.

The Washington Post provides some context at the bottom of its wire service article on the latest crash:

Iran has a history of frequent air accidents blamed on its aging aircraft and poor maintenance. IranAir’s fleet includes Boeing and Airbus aircraft, many of them bought before the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, which led to a cutoff in ties between the two nations.

Iranian airlines, including those run by the state, are chronically strapped for cash, and maintenance has suffered, experts say. U.S. sanctions prevent Iran from updating its 30-year-old American aircraft and make it difficult to get European spare parts or planes as well. The country has come to rely on Russian aircraft, many of them Soviet-era planes that are harder to get parts for since the Soviet Union’s fall.

State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley basically admitted last fall that a shift had occurred wherein U.S. sanctions were no longer seeking to assiduously focus pressure on certain figures associated with Iran’s leadership. In other words, innocent Iranians — ‘Jamshid Averages’ — were now on the hook for the behavior of their government.

One may wonder whether this plane full of Iranians was dangling precariously from that hook before it broke in mid-air and fell to the ground.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.



  1. Sanctions on Iranian civilian aircraft, including on the sale of parts and providing safety equipment and information, constitutes a violation of international law and the Chicago Convention.

  2. RE:”constitutes a violation of international law…” – Hass
    MY SNARK: Unfortunately, the US is becoming more and more like Israel in not feeling compelled to abide by ‘international law’. Down, down, down into the amoral abyss we go!

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