Calls increase to ban Iran Air from Heathrow over drone support for Russia

UK Foreign Office minister says government has already taken urgent steps in response to Tehran's support of Moscow

British MPs have questioned why state-backed Iran Air operates flights out of Heathrow despite its support for Russia.
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Iran’s national airline should be banned from Heathrow Airport due to Tehran’s support for Russia, British MPs have heard.

Conservative former cabinet minister Liam Fox asked why Iran Air is still operating regular flights from the west London hub, with Foreign Office minister David Rutley replying that he would raise the issue within the department.

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in recent weeks over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by police in Tehran for allegedly not adhering to Iran’s strict dress code for women.

Iran has also acknowledged it supplied Russia with drones, but claimed the transfer came before Moscow’s war on Ukraine, during which a number of Iranian-made drones have hit Kyiv.

Dr Fox told the Commons that what we are seeing is “further savage behaviour from a toxic regime against its own people”.

He said that British society should be “united in giving moral support to the Iranian people as they try to seek basic human rights”.

It was well established, he added, that Iran Air was used to transport drones to Russia — which has used them to “oppress the people of Ukraine” — and asked why it was still operating daily flights out of Heathrow.

Mr Rutley replied that the government had already taken urgent steps in response to Iranian activity in support of the Russian military action in Ukraine.

He also said the UK government “utterly condemns” the Iranian government’s decision to resort to “barbaric methods” to clamp down on protesters — but fears the number of death sentences handed down by the country's courts will rise.

“The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances,” he said. “It’s all the more abhorrent when those sentenced have been arrested whilst standing up for their rights.”

The minister also faced calls to ensure Britain declares its support for regime change in Iran and to add the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to a list of banned terrorist organisations in the UK.

Mr Rutley said: “The destabilising activity of the IRGC — whether it’s in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon or Syria — are very, very concerning in the region and beyond.

“We’re constantly keeping that proscription under review but I can’t comment at this stage.”

Updated: November 16, 2022, 8:43 PM