Congress Attempts to Block Boeing Aircraft Sale to Iran
Signs of bipartisanship in the federal government are as hard to find as Hamilton tickets. So perhaps the nation owes a debt of gratitude to U.S. aviation manufacturer Boeing, for accomplishing something no president has been able to achieve consistently in more than a decade—bringing a majority of Democrats and Republicans together.
All the company had to do was try to sell aircraft to Iran.
Last month, Boeing completed a deal with Iran Air, for around 100 777 and 737 aircraft, to be sold for approximately $25 billion. It’s a transaction that would not have been possible prior to the recent easing of trade sanctions with Iran, approved after the controversial nuclear deal was ratified.
Lawmakers announced their opposition immediately, and are now seeking to block the sale from moving forward.
That effort is being led by two Republican members of the House of Representatives, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
“Iran’s commercial aviation sector is deeply involved in supporting hostile actors. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) systematically uses commercial aircraft to transport troops, weapons, military-related parts, rockets, and missiles to hostile actors around the world, including, but not limited to, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthi Rebels in Yemen, and the Bashar al-Assad Regime in Syria,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Boeing. “These terrorist groups and rogue regimes have American blood on their hands. Your potential customers do as well.”
Roskam then introduced two amendments to a House financial services spending bill, both drafted to block the sale. The first would prohibit the Office of Foreign Assets Control from using funds to authorize a license for aircraft to be sold to Iran – Boeing would need such a license to make the sales. The second blocks Iran from receiving loans from U.S. financial institutions to purchase “military-fungible aircraft.”
Both amendments passed by voice vote in the House, and the spending bill passed 239-185. It must now be reconciled with a Senate version before it arrives on the desk of President Obama.
If the president vetoes the legislation, allowing the deal to go through, he will do so against the preference of a majority of Democrats as well.
In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-California), a member of the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services committees, wrote that it is “virtually certain” the aircraft would be used for nefarious purposes, including supplying arms to Syria. He also noted that Iran Air was sanctioned in 2011 for providing material support to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, a group that remains under sanction.
Thus far, the Obama administration has not publicly criticized the Boeing deal. Should President Obama veto any measures to shut it down, it would likely be to avoid any perception of undermining the Iran nuclear deal.
Boeing, a recipient of several Defense Department contracts, totaling more than $100 billion over the past five years, issued a statement that it proceeded “under authorizations from the U.S. government following a determination that Iran had met its obligations under the nuclear accord reached last summer” and that the company will “continue to follow the lead of the U.S. government with regards to working with Iran’s airlines, and any and all contracts with Iran’s airlines will be contingent upon U.S. government approval.”
The State Department’s annual report still lists Iran as the “foremost state sponsor of terrorism,” and spokesman John Kirby stated that this sale and any future deals depend on “Iran’s good behavior.”