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Iran's Military Demands A Share Of Commercial Overflight Fees

FILE - Qader Rahimzadeh Lieutenant Commander of Iran's air defense forces.

The Lieutenant Commander of Iran’s air defense headquarters said on Wednesday, September 5 that the force is seeking to directly receive a part of Iran's income from overflight fees paid by airlines.

Speaking to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-run news agency Fars, Iranian Army Brigadier General Qader Rahimzadeh claimed that the number of airplanes using the country's space has been trebled, adding, "Initially, we had proposed to receive 30% of the income, but the amount is negotiable."

The Khatam al-Anbiya Air Defense Headquarters (PADAJA in Persian acronym) operates under the joint chiefs and is responsible for providing strategic and operational-level air defense over the country, as well as much of the tactical air defense for other branches.

Many airlines flying from Europe, Africa and the Middle East to India and southeast Asia use Iran's airspace.

The headquarters was initially formed as an Army Air Force Unit in 1992 to coordinate the respective air defense efforts of the regular army and IRGC. In August 2008 the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promoted the HQ to its current status as an independent branch with full command over the relevant units and their equipment, including the Army Air Force's radars, SAMs, and AAA.

The reason behind demanding a share of the income from overflight fees, General Rahimzadeh argues, is the need to expand the resources needed for providing safety of commercial air traffic.

This could potentially create issues in relation with U.S. sanctions. Many parts of Iran’s military are sanctioned by the United States and if money paid by foreign airlines end up benefitting the military, it can create complications.

"Currently, we do not directly receive any money… but we are seeking to secure a direct share," Gen. Rahimzadeh reiterated.

As many of the airports in Iran are loss-making, a part of the income from charging airplanes passing over the country is allocated to them.

Meanwhile, Gen. Rahimzadeh has tabled the demand at a time when security and defense-related institutions have separate outlays in the Iranian government budget.

The allocated budget for the current Iranian calendar year (ending March 20) is approximately $18.5 billion.