The United States has seized a Boeing 747 cargo plane that Iran sold to a Venezuelan state airline, drawing condemnation from Tehran.

The US Department of Justice announced late on Monday that it had taken custody of the aircraft after Argentina grounded it 18 months ago. Washington says that the sale of the plane to Venezuela in 2022 by Iran’s Mahan Air violated its sanctions on Tehran.

The US has imposed sanctions on the airline due to its affiliation with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Mahan Air’s sale of the aircraft to Venezuela’s Emtrasur violated these sanctions, Washington said. Following the deal, Argentina grounded the jumbo jet in July 2022.

Since the US started imposing its toughest unilateral sanctions yet on Iran in 2019, Washington has been treating the IRGC – a crucial military and economic component of the establishment in Iran – as a “foreign terrorist organisation”.

Iran was swift to blast the US move. Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Nasser Kanaani condemned it as “illegal” in a short statement, contended that it violated the United Nations Charter, and vowed to help Caracas in reclaiming the Boeing.

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